Equity in health care is striving for the highest possible standard of health for all people and giving special attention to the needs of those at greatest risk of poor health, based on social conditions 1. Research on “health inequities” centres on a few important themes:
- Health equity is about meeting patient needs while minimizing any avoidable differential outcomes based on individual characteristics
- Health equity involves the fair distribution of resources needed for health, fair access to the opportunities available, and fairness in the support offered to people when ill 2
- Health inequities are differences in healthcare outcomes that cannot be explained by access-related factors, clinical needs, relevance of intervention, or patient preferences
- Health inequalities are differences in health that are “avoidable”, “unjust”, and “unfair”
How do we understand the factors underlying health inequities?
Understanding health inequities means knowing what the social determinants of health are and how they affect patients, families and healthcare organizations. Social Determinants of Health is a term used by the World Health Organization; it refers to social and economic health-impacting factors such as housing, wealth, religion, gender, etc.
Model outlining the Social Determinants of Health 3
The following 14 Social Determinants of Health are directly relevant to health equity in Canada: 4
- Aboriginal status
- Food insecurity
- Social exclusion
- Health services
- Unemployment & job security
- Early life
- Income and income distribution
- Employment & working conditions
- Social safety net
Therefore, these variables are essential when examining health equity in a Canadian context.
Next page: 2.2. Equity as a Component of Quality
- Braveman P. (2014, January). What are health disparities and health equity? We need to be clear. Public Health Report, 2, 5-8 ↩
- Whitehead M, Dahlgren G. (2006). Concepts and principles for tackling social inequities in health: Levelling up part 1. Geneva: World Health Organization.. ↩
- Dahlgren, G. and Whitehead, M. (1991).Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health. Stockholm: Institute for Future Studies. ↩
- Dahlgren, G. and Whitehead, M. (1991). Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health. Stockholm: Institute for Future Studies. ↩