The Health Equity Guide glossary contains our preferred definitions for terminology used to talk about advancing health equity.
A community organizing group may be defined as an organization that:
- Brings people who identify as being part of a community together to solve problems that they themselves identify
- Helps a community identify common problems, mobilize resources, and develop and implement strategies to reach their collective goals
- Develops civic agency among individuals and communities to take control over their lives and environments.
- Is committed to building a membership base and is accountable to that membership
- Builds collective power to bring about structural change
Source: Definition adapted from ones by 1) Meredith Minkler, Community Organizing and Community Building for Health and Welfare, 3rd Edition, 2012 and 2) Katherine Schaff, et al. Essential Elements of Health Equity Practice. NACCHO Exchange. 2016, v15, Issue 2.
As an outcome: We achieve equity when identity no longer systematically exposes people to risks or grants people privileges with regard to socioeconomic and life outcomes, and when people who need them most are prioritized to receive the resources required to thrive.
As a process: We achieve equity when those most impacted by historic and current structural biases and injustices are leading or meaningfully engaged in efforts to prioritize issues, craft and implement solutions, develop accountability measures, and monitor progress.
Source: Generated by Human Impact Partners and stakeholders as part of an assessment of the equity impacts of lead poisoning prevention policies.
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.
Source: Definition adapted from one developed by Paula Braveman, et al in the RWJF commissioned paper, “What Is Health Equity? And What Difference Does a Definition Make?”. Check out why we use this definition.
Differences in health status and mortality rates across population groups that are systemic, avoidable, unfair, and unjust, e.g., Breast cancer mortality for Black women versus White women.
Source: Adapted by Human Impact Partners from Margaret Whitehead, World Health Organization.
Movement building is the effort of social change agents to engage power holders and the broader society in addressing a systemic problem or injustice while promoting an alternative vision or solution. Movement building requires a range of intersecting approaches through a set of distinct stages over a long-term period of time.
Through movement building, organizers can:
- Propose solutions to the root causes of social problems
- Enable people to exercise their collective power
- Humanize groups that have been denied basic human rights and improve conditions for the groups affected
- Create structural change by building something larger than a particular organization or campaign
- Promote visions and values for society based on fairness, justice and democracy
Source: Movement Strategy Center
Structural Racism (3 definitions)
Structural racism is a system of advantage based on race.
Structural racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on phenotype (“race”), that:
- Unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities
- Unfairly advantages other individuals and communities
- Undermines realization of the full potential of the whole society through the waste of human resources
Structural racism is a fundamental cause of health inequity, associated with imbalances in political power throughout society. It functions to normalize and legitimize cultural, institutional, and personal hierarchies and inequity that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse health outcomes for people of color. Structural racism perpetuates residential segregation, concentrated poverty, disinvestment in neighborhoods, and targeting neighborhoods for toxic waste— all issues related to serious health outcomes.
Transformational approaches are initiatives crossing multiple institutions that shift efforts towards proactive solutions. These solutions alter the ways institutions operate thereby shifting cultural values and political will to create equity.
Source: Content originally seen in a presentation by john a. powell from the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. Content adapted from Ronald A. Heifetz & Donald L. Laurie, “The Work of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1997; and Ronald A. Heifetz & Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line, Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
Transactional approaches are issue-based efforts that help individuals negotiate existing structures. These solutions “transact” with institutions to get short-term gains for communities, but leaving the existing structure in place.
Additional Glossaries of Related Terms
- Racial Equity Tools Glossary, compiled by Sally Leiderman – CAPD, Maggie Potapchuk – MP Associates, & Shakti Butler – World Trust
- Living Glossary for Racial Justice, Equity & Inclusion (google doc), Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center and Racial Reconciliation and Healing
- Health Equity Terms (PDF), Vermont Department of Health