Achieving Health Equity

Why health equity matters and what you can do to help ensure we all have the basics to be healthy.

A woman and her baby at a farmers' market.

Why Equity Matters

In a Culture of Health, everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life, no matter who we are, where we live, or how much money we make.

Personal responsibility plays a key role in health, but the choices we make depend on the choices we have available to us. While we can’t ensure that each of us will be healthy, we can make it much more possible for everyone to have the opportunity to make healthy choices, and for health to be much more accessible to all.

What is Health Equity?

Across the nation, gaps in health are large, persistent and increasing. Health equity means everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier. It acknowledges that it's hard to be healthy without access to good jobs, homes and schools. It requires concerted effort to increase opportunities to be healthier for everyone - especially those whose obstacles are greatest.

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Defining Health Equity

Learn more about the meaning of health equity and strategies to help foster effective discussion and engagement.

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Communities in Action

A scientific panel highlights nine communities working to advance health equity and what it takes to be successful.

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Forward Promise

A national program that strengthens and empowers boys and young men of color to heal, grow, and thrive.

Health Equity in Action

Health equity is crucial to a vibrant nation. Unfortunately, many areas have experienced generations of isolation from opportunity. Policies and practices at every level have created deep-rooted barriers to good health. Because of this, far too many start behind, and stay behind.

At the same time, communities are increasingly recognizing that when there is health equity, all are better off. They are thinking in new ways about the many types of systems that influence health, from education and housing to transportation and public safety. And from parents and educators to health providers and business leaders, they are coming together around a shared vision of better health for all.

RWJF Webinar

RWJF Webinar

Building Health Equity: From Resources to Community Action

RWJF Webinar

Research shows that health equity is critical to building a happy, prosperous nation, but that doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach is the answer. Listen to the webinar.
Research shows that health equity is critical to building a happy, prosperous nation, but that doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach is the answer. Listen to the webinar.

RWJF Webinar

Research shows that health equity is critical to building a happy, prosperous nation, but that doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach is the answer. Listen to the webinar.

Communities Making Positive Change in Health

Share Your Story

Everyone pursuing health equity has a story. We want to know yours. What inspires you? What successes are you seeing where you live? What does health equity look like?

Explore the Evidence

Health is about much more than genetics and medical care. Research has shown that the conditions we face as we live, learn, work and play—what researchers call the social determinants of health—also have a lot to do with how healthy we are.

How does inequity play out in America today? Through:

New Orleans life expectancy map

Life expectancy differences

Opportunities to lead a long and healthy life can vary dramatically by neighborhood.

Explore the maps
Mother walking with her daughter behind a concrete wall of a partially built house.

Exposure to environmental risks

Many people don’t have access to parks, healthy food, clean air, safe streets, and health care, which contributes to obesity, asthma and diabetes.

Browse this topic
Children raise their hands to answer a question.

Education gaps

Access to high-quality early childhood education can break the cycle of chronic stress that contributes to mental and physical problems later in life.

Read the brief
A student holds up a sign defining what a Culture of Health means to her.

Structural racism

Research suggests that racism, spanning systems from medical care to housing and hiring to the criminal justice system, adversely affects health in multiple ways.

Read a groundbreaking study
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Income gaps

Household income is linked to health, even beyond racial and ethnic differences. See the charts on quality of health and life expectancy.

A client going to a health clinic.

Discriminatory practices

People with disabilities are at higher risk for chronic diseases. Learn about inclusion strategies. Discrimination against those who are LGBTQ contributes to poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and other stresses that affect health. Read about building acceptance.

Girl looks out a barred window.

Poor housing quality

For many households, high costs, dangers like lead and allergens, and a lack of safety contribute to poor health.

Read the brief
A waitress serving some cookies.

Poor working conditions

People in lower-status and lower-wage jobs are more likely to experience poor working conditions, compounding the burden of  social disadvantage.

Read the brief
Health equity at the doctor's office, in schools, and providing affordable housing.

What You Can Do

From small steps you can take right now to larger policy changes you can help support.

If you ...

What Everyone Can Do

Weights balance scales of justice with a gavel beside it.

Know your rights.

Learn more at hhs.gov

Man speaking in front of a small audience.

Start a conversation about equity and disparities in health.

Visit CDC's Conversations in Equity blog

Unnatural Causes Documentary

Watch “Unnatural Causes” to learn how inequality hurts health.

Watch the documentary's trailer

Williamson Community Garden

Mobilize your community with guidance on change efforts.

Visit Community Tool Box

Graphic illustration depicting residential segregation from 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.

Ask an expert for help if you don’t know where to start.

Visit County Health Rankings action center

Dr. Ted Brooks works on patient.

Share your story to help others see what health equity can look like.

Share your story

The Latest on #PromoteHealthEquity

RT: @RWJF "Equality," a core U.S. value, is not "Equity." That difference can mean years off your life. #PromoteHealthEquity https://t.co/DUvWf4eZ7X
RT: @RWJF One size does NOT fit all especially in health. #PromoteHealthEquity and start convo about your community's needs. https://t.co/tH8lz3SW1h
RT: @RWJF "Equality," a core U.S. value, is not "Equity." That difference can mean years off your life. #PromoteHealthEquity https://t.co/DUvWf4eZ7X