Kansas Department of Health & Environment

What Does Equity Mean?

The term health “inequity” goes hand-in-hand with the definition of disparities. Inequity describes the systematic and repeating pattern of disparities.

Health inequities are defined as “differences in health which are not only unnecessary and avoidable, but in addition, are considered unfair and unjust.”

In particular, people of color and low income people, experience one disparity after another. People working toward health equity seek to eliminate the unacceptable differences represented in disparities.

Health equity is the concept that “all people have an equal right to the conditions and resources that assure optimal health and safety”.
. . .(adapted from The Health Equity and Prevention Primer, Module 1, Prevention Institute.

  • The five leading causes of death are also conditions with high rates of disparities.
  • The leading causes of death, illness and injury are largely preventable.
  • A focus on health care services alone cannot eliminate inequities.

Moreover, primary prevention strategies should:

  • Address the underlying reasons why people are getting sick and injured in the first place;
  • Act at the population level by improving environments, including community conditions; and
  • Create equal opportunity

As primary prevention is implemented, it proactively promotes equity by emphasizing those who need it most, and accelerating efforts in communities that have been historically disenfranchised.

Community conditions shaped by elements in the environment (e.g., racism, poverty and discrimination) are systemically rooted in our society. Root factors such as these must also be addressed as we improve community conditions. Modifying the way that root factors play out in communities is an important part of reducing inequities. (The Health Equity and Prevention Primer, Module 1, Prevention Institute.  www.preventioninstitute.org)

Important resources

  • Documentary Film Series.  “Unnatural Causes:  Is Inequality Making Us Sick?”
  • Prevention Institute.

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