Pursuing Health Equity

Health equity can be defined as the absence of disadvantage to individuals and communities in health outcomes, access to health care, and quality of health care regardless of one's race, gender, nationality, age, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status.

Health equity concerns those disparities in public health that can be traced to unequal, systemic economic and social conditions. Despite significant improvements in the health of the overall population, health inequities in America persist. Racial and ethnic minorities continue to experience higher rates of morbidity and mortality than nonminorities across a range of health issues. For example, African-American children with asthma have a seven times greater mortality rate than Non-Hispanic White children with the illness. While cancer is the second leading cause of death among all populations in the U.S., ethnic minorities are especially burdened with the disease.

African-American men, for example, are more than twice as likely as their White counterparts to die of prostate cancer. In addition, 36 percent of adults with a disability are obese compared to 23 percent of adults without a disability, and smoking prevalence for people with disabilities is approximately 50 percent higher than for people without disabilities. Among the 10 leading causes of mortality in the U.S., minority populations experience the highest rate of death. The reported reasons for these disparities vary, including individual factors such as limited access to health care and differences in cultural beliefs, social norms, and socioeconomic status.