What is Health Equity?

By: Health Equity Institute

To better understand the goal of Health Equity, you need to learn what causes health differences among groups of people. Health inequities are differences in health that are avoidable, unfair and unjust. Social, economic and environmental conditions can affect health in a number of ways creating health inequities. Social Inequities occur when a person is treated unfairly because of things like race, class, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status. Institutions such as corporations or schools have the power to create unequal opportunities based on social status. These unequal opportunities can lead to poor educational outcomes or fewer job opportunities creating economic disadvantage. For example, a college graduate earns over 36,000 dollars more per year than someone who did not finish high school. Income can determine the neighborhood you live in.

The environmental conditions of a neighborhood can affect a person’s health. In Marin, California, someone can live 15 years longer than someone who lives just 8 miles away. Why? Lower-income neighborhoods tend to be in poor social and environmental conditions. Examples include being closer to environmental hazards such as freeways or power plants, having higher crime or violence rates or limited access to healthy foods and safe places to exercise. Social, economic, and environmental conditions can affect health disparities, which are differences in health among groups of people.

Health Behaviors affect disparities. If people are not educated on how to lead a healthy lifestyle or they lack social and financial support to make healthy choices, they may choose certain behaviors over others. Behaviors such as smoking, poor nutrition or unsafe sexual behaviors increase chances of developing chronic conditions or diseases, which can affect how long someone lives. Smokers live at least 10 years less than nonsmokers. Health Disparities are also affected by genetics. We are learning more everyday about how our genetic make-up makes us more vulnerable to certain health problems. Access to quality health-care is one key in reducing inequities and disparities but health is more than just disease or illness. Health is how we treat others The opportunities we are given Where we live And our everyday behaviors.

Nobody should be denied the chance to live a long healthy life because of social, economic or environmental conditions. To achieve health equity, we need to eliminate avoidable health inequities and health disparities. We need to create fair opportunities for health, provide equal access to resources and invest in low-income neighborhoods. Health Equity will be achieved when everyone is able to reach their full health potential.

What is Health Equity?

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