Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. To achieve this, we must remove obstacles to health — such as poverty, discrimination, and deep power imbalances — and their consequences, including lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.


Where did this definition come from?

This definition of Health Equity is slightly adapted from one developed by Paula Braveman and colleagues in the RWJF commissioned paper, “What Is Health Equity? And What Difference Does a Definition Make?”.

Citation: Braveman P, Arkin E, Orleans T, Proctor D, and Plough A. What Is Health Equity? And What Difference Does a Definition Make? Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2017

Why do we use this definition?
  • It acknowledges the importance of social determinants of health, power imbalances, and historical legacies as key to driving health inequities.
  • It explicitly states the importance of fairness and justice in creating the conditions for being healthy.
Why do we say “health equity” instead of “health disparities” or “health inequalities”?
  • The terms “health disparities” and “health inequalities” define observable differences in health among disadvantaged groups. They stop there, without establishing why that came to be.
  • We believe that understanding and addressing historical and social disadvantage is key to advancing health equity.


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