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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to questions frequently asked related to health equity​


What is health equity?​

Health Equity is attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Health equity entails focused societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities by equalizing the conditions for health for all groups, especially for those who have experienced socioeconomic disadvantage or historical injustices (Healthy People 2020)​

What are health inequities?

Health inequities are systemic, avoidable, unfair and unjust differences in Health Status and mortality rates and in the distribution of disease and illness across population groups. (Department of Health and Human Services) ​

Can health equity be achieved?

We will know we have reached health equity when we can no longer predict life expectancy, diabetes mortality, heart disease, high blood pressure, and quality of life on the basis of race, income, or zip code.

To achieve health equity requires ongoing efforts to address current and past social injustices such as poverty, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, unequal access to jobs, and healthy housing. ​

What is the cost of health inequities?

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies report released September 2009, showed that:

  • Between 2003 and 2006, 30.6 percent of medical care expenditures for African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics were excess costs that were the result of inequities in the health of these groups.
  • Between 2003 and 2006, the combined direct and indirect cost of health inequalities and premature death in the United States was $1.24 trillion (in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars). This is more than the gross domestic product of India and equate to $309.3 billion annually lost to the economy.


What is cultural competence?

Refers to the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, genders, sexual orientation and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each. (OAR 415-056-0005) ​

What are health disparities?

Refers to the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to Health disparities are differences in health status, including incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases, among distinct segments of the population including differences that occur by gender, race or ethnicity, education or income, disability, or living in various geographic localities. (State of Virginia, Division of Multicultural Health and Community Engagement (DMHCE)  ​

What are the social determinants for health?

Social determinants of health are those inter-related social and economic factors that influence health. Social determinants of health include, but are not limited to: socioeconomic status, discrimination, housing, physical environment, food security, child development, culture, social support, healthcare services, transportation, working conditions, and democratic participation. The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as "complex, integrated, and overlapping social structures and economic systems that include the social environment, physical environment, and health services; structural and societal factors that are responsible for most health inequities. Social determinants of health are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national, and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices." ​

What is social justice?

Social justice is the equitable distribution of social, economic and political resources, opportunities, and responsibilities and their consequences. (State of Virginia, Division of Multicultural Health and Community Engagement (DMHCE) 

What is the health impact assessment?

HIA is a combination of procedures, methods, and tools by which a policy, program, or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population.* *While multiple definitions of HIA exist, this definition established by the World Health Organization is most commonly referred to as a standard. ​