Health Equity

For all we spend on healthcare, the United States should be home to the healthiest people on the planet.  Yet even our healthiest populations in the United States are less healthy than their peers in other countries (Institute of Medicine, 2013).  Reducing healthcare expenditures will not be achieved overnight, however Michigan’s Community Health Innovation Regions (CHIRs) are working to implement systemic equity-based approaches focused on making measurable improvements across groups and populations.

What is Equity?

Equity is when everyone has a fair and just opportunity for health and wellbeing (RWJF, 2016). Unfortunately, some groups experience more obstacles to these opportunities than others, and these obstacles often accumulate because of discrimination related to socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability status, geographic location, or some combination of these characteristics (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014).

A focus on equity requires dedicated efforts to understand and address the patterns of system and structural conditions contributing to differential outcomes and experiences across stakeholders (Foster-Fishman & Watson, 2017).

What is the difference between Equality and Equity?

While equity involves everyone having a fair and just opportunity for health, equality involves giving everyone the same things. Unfortunately, a focus on equality only promotes fairness when everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things – a situation that rarely happens in our society (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014).

Promoting equity involves not only giving people the supports and resources they need given their unique situation (e.g., right type of bike to fit body), but also putting community and structural conditions in place to ensure inclusion and access for everyone (e.g., adding curb cuts to sidewalks).

The following image from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows a useful way to tell the difference between equity and equality.

Image of a family riding bikes together. Top picture of equality. Bottom picture of equity.(Image Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Equity Resources

The following are several general resources for using an equity approach in your region.

Understand Equity

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Achieving Health Equity
Examples and links to information and resources on promoting health equity.
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Annie E. Casey Foundation 
Toolkits, briefs, policy reports, case studies, and data sources related to promoting equity.
Source: The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Prevention Institute Health Equity Tools
Practical tools to help practitioners, advocates, community groups, and policymakers promote equity with their efforts.
Source: Prevention Institute

Talk about Health Equity

Race Matters: How to Talk about Race
Provides practical tips and recommendations for how to talk with others about racial equity.
Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation 

New Way to Talk about the Social Determinants of Health
Provides research-based suggestions for how to talk about equity and the social determinants of health.
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

Statisticks Lottery
Brief video describing why some children experience worse outcomes related to success in school and life than others. Helpful for illustrating the types of obstacles often leading to inequities.
Source: The Campaign for Grade-level Reading

See the Tools for Action section of this website for equity-based resources and tools.