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What is Health Equity and Why is it Important?

Health equity is a pursuit within the healthcare industry that focuses on providing fair and equal healthcare opportunities for all patients regardless of their status. This emerging field in healthcare has grown significantly in recent decades and is projected to continue in growth as more healthcare institutions drive investments, build workforces, and develop policies and practices centered around promotion, advocacy, and advancement of local and national health equity.

While the idea of equal healthcare opportunities for all has been a topic of conversation for many decades, it is only within the last ten to fifteen years that significant investments, voices, and efforts have been made to bring the practice into the mainstream of healthcare. Today’s emphasis and focus on health equity goes beyond simply identifying disparities in health outcomes; but instead aims to address the the systemic and structural roots of the problem, which continues to perpetuate inequities. While there is still a long way to go, recent investments have led to significant expansion and growth in the field – translating to a healthier society.

Continue reading to learn more about health equity, its importance, and how to enter the field.


Equity And Its Applications In Healthcare

Understanding what equity is will help provide a fuller grasp of its applications in the healthcare field. While the basic understanding of equity is providing equal access and opportunities for all, The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition provides a more nuanced approach to the definition. The WHO defines equity as “the absence of unfair, avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people.” This definition not only emphasizes the importance of providing equal opportunity but eliminating the instances that are causing inequity to occur in the first place. It is also important to note that equality of access does not equate to equality of outcome – which varies by individual.

Health equity, which is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health,” aims to apply these practices in a healthcare capacity. There are many driving factors to consider when assessing the differences between those with and without access to healthcare. These drivers as referred to as the social determinants of health, a broad term used to explain the impacts of various economic, social, and environmental factors that influence health outcomes. Health equity aims to identify, remediate, prevent, and eliminate these determinants in individuals, family units, local communities, and greater society.


The Benefits of Health Equity

In a perfect world, health equity would be a given. Everyone would have access to the same healthcare, receive the same quality of care and services, and qualify for the same medications, procedures, and treatments as everyone else. This is the world those currently working with the health equity field hope to achieve. However, those who live in marginalized and underserved communities and who are afflicted by one or more of the social determinants of health, are less likely to receive the same quality healthcare treatment, services, and attention as those who do not.

For those pursuing health equity, there is more to solving the problem then the moral and ethical implications for equitable healthcare distribution. The benefits can be extended beyond the individual to include various social, economic, personal, public, and professional capacities beyond the healthcare continuum. There are economic, social, societal, and public health benefits to health equity which can have a generational impact on communities and families. In addition to these benefits, health equity helps elevate marginalized and underserved communities, eliminate healthcare disparities among those of protected statuses, and bring issues affecting them and their communities to the forefront.


Achieving Health Equity

Health equity is a critical component of a just and fair society. It requires collective action and commitment from policymakers, healthcare providers, communities, and individuals. By addressing the root causes of health disparities and promoting equal opportunities for health, we can build a healthier, more equitable world for all. Achieving health equity will require an evolving, multifaceted approach that connects various aspects of the healthcare system.

Such efforts to achieve health equity can include instituting policy changes centered around identifying and addressing the social determinants of health, driving community engagement through activism and campaigning, placing investments in educating health and community workers around cultural competence and compassion, and gathering and analyzing data to identify health disparities and monitor progress toward health equity goals – ensuring that resources are distributed equitably.


Work In The Health Equity Field

There are multiple pathways for those interested in pursuing a career in health equity. Since many health equity positions involve administrative and community outreach initiatives, a degree in healthcare administration can help lay the groundwork for a rewarding career. Not only does healthcare administration provide a pathway for career advancement, but it also offers a dynamic understanding of the healthcare system – providing vital skills for professionals seeking a position in health equity.

The University of Providence offers a healthcare administration pathway for current or aspiring healthcare professionals to start, enhance, or advance their career in healthcare administration. Offered at the associate, bachelor, and master’s degree level – our programs are designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare system while emphasizing proactive evidence-based learning. UP also provides specialized certificates for bachelor degree holders in community health and health justice focuses explicitly on health equity, the social determinants of health, and community organizing.


Learn more about our healthcare administration pathway, including how you can pair a concentration in community health, health justice or leadership to your masters in healthcare administration degree.