Health Equity & Social Determinants of Health
What is Health Equity?
Health equity is achieved when all individuals are able to reach their full health potential, and receive high quality care that is fair and appropriate to them and their needs, no matter where they live, what they have, or who they are. Health care equity is a subset of health equity that focuses on the health system’s ability to provide equitable health care. A more equitable health system is more efficient, because people receive high quality, effective care according to their level of need. However, access to health care alone is insufficient to reduce health inequities.
An individual’s health is dependent on factors that lie outside of the traditional definition of the health care system, including whether or not they have access to housing, food, and education. These social determinants of health require thinking about health (and how health services are planned) in a different way.
In the context of the health system, health equity means:
- Making sure everyone has access to high quality health care
- Addressing specific health needs of all people regardless of social status
- Ensuring that the health services are organized and provided in a way that reduces health disparities
The Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network continues to apply a health equity lens to all activities including sub-region planning, program development, integrations, capital projects, and funding decisions. Applying a health equity lens empowers both Local Health Integration Networks and health service providers to identify how to reduce inequities that result from barriers in access to quality health services and thus increase positive health outcomes. Some of the key components of planning with a health equity lens include:
- Identifying vulnerable or marginalized populations;
- Understanding the population and its needs;
- Considering the impact of the social determinants of health and how they intersect;
- Identifying mitigation strategies; and
- Monitoring and evaluating process and outcome measures.
In applying this lens, a Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) may be utilized as a standardized tool to identify unintended negative health impacts of a policy, program, or initiative on vulnerable or marginalized groups within the general population and make recommendations to mitigate negative impacts on the population groups identified. See below for more information on Health Equity Impact Assessment.
In the three-minute video below from the Health Equity Institute, learn how social, economic and environmental conditions can create health inequities and how these inequities can affect health disparities.