Getting Started: What Is Health Equity?

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Whether you’re just now exploring healthcare equity issues, or have been in the field for years, it’s helpful for all of us to have a common language when we are talking about health equity and the surrounding issues. 

Here are a few definitions that can help you, your peers, your organization – or even your friends and family!—understand how we talk about equity and justice in healthcare.

What is equity?

Equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those  groups  are defined  socially, economically,  demographically,  geographically, or by other means of stratification.

What is health equity?

Health equity or equity in healthimplies that ideally everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.

What are health inequities?

Health inequities are the unfair and avoidable differences in health  status seen  within  and between countries. Health inequities therefore involve more than inequality with  respect  to health determinants, access  to  the resources needed to improve and maintain health, or health outcomes. They also entail a failure to avoid or overcome inequalities that infringe on fairness and human rights norms.

What is health disparity?

Health disparityis a higher burden of illness, injury, disability, or mortality experienced by one population group relative to another group.

What is health care disparity?

Health care disparity is the differences between groups in health insurance coverage, access to and use of care, and quality of care.

What are health determinants?

According to’s Healthy People 2020 ,health determinantsare the personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health status are known as determinants of health. They are affected by social factors, health services, individual behavior, biology and genetics and policymaking and they reach beyond traditional healthcare and public health sectors and into education, housing, transportation, agriculture and environment. 

Getting everyone “speaking the same language’ can help set the stage to implement policies and processes to address these issues in healthcare settings. Need more guidance?  Download our Health Equity Definitions slides to share with your team!