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The Importance of Health Equity and How We Can Work to Achieve It

Have you heard of “health equity?” Chances are, you haven’t, but you’ve experienced the effects of it—either positively or negatively. Equal access to healthcare is known as health equity. And not everyone has it.

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This is the latest article in our series on Anti-Racism and Inclusion. Read our previous posts on The Importance of Health Equity, Racism and Mental Health, and watch the video of our interactive webinar on Disparities in Healthcare.

Systemic racism, socioeconomic conditions, lifestyle and cultural differences (known as the social determinants of health) have long created barriers to access healthcare services and support. These inequities affect BIPOC communities most profoundly, resulting in higher rates of disease and pregnancy complications. Recent events in North America have shone a light on these inequities and amplified the acute need for resources and support. Let’s explore this a bit more.

What is health equity?

“Health equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification.” 

The World Health Organization

Health equity means that ideally, there are fair opportunities for everyone to lead healthy and long lives. It can only happen by removing the barriers to, and setting up the conditions necessary for, achieving good health.

Why does health equity matter?

Health is a fundamental human right for all, regardless of race, gender or class. By boosting awareness and education around the inequities in  health, we can work together to close the gap in access to healthcare. Fighting health inequities can help increase community health – as many health issues affect populations differently. For example, although only twenty-two percent of US counties are Black, this population accounted for 52% of COVID-19 diagnoses and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally. Black, Latino, and Native American communities are about twice as likely as whites to be diabetic, they face higher diabetes-related mortality rates, and they suffer disproportionately from complications such as kidney damage and lower-limb amputations.

But we have to remember that this is a complex issue, and it goes beyond fixing one problem at a time. It takes systemic changes like laws or policies that help empower and provide resources to groups who face and experience health inequities.

Steps to achieving health equity: 

  1. Focus your attention on the needs of marginalized communities who face persistent barriers to health – such as those who live in remote areas or do not have easy access to healthcare clinics or services. .  
  2. Try to move the needle on policy changes! Health reform laws (such as the 2010 Affordable Care Act) plays a major role in creating communities that allow people of different backgrounds to thrive. Sign petitions and raise awareness, contact your members of government, and vote! 
  3. Health equity is not only affected by race. Recognize the intersection of issues that add to social inequities, including economic security and housing. 
  4. Value all human life by prioritizing diversity and inclusion – and find ways to overcome sexism, classism, or racism. 
  5. Establish and maintain authentic relationships with community members who face persistent barriers to health and work with them collaboratively. They need to have a seat at the table, and you can help amplify their voices.

Steps to health equity from ARCHE

Racism and Mental Health

person is seated next to a city street and is looking at their hands with a look of concern on their face.

Healthcare’s role in health equity

Social determinants of health, like your personal habits, biology, and race, have a major impact on your physical health and well-being. Health professionals need to take these into consideration when looking at your whole health so they can properly treat, diagnose and care for you properly. Remember to cover your  personal environment, experiences, and habits when you’re filling out a health assessment or speaking to your doctor.

At League, health equity is a big part of our strategy. We created our Health Profile based on the social determinants of health to better recommend the resources, tools and support you need for your holistic health. Our goal has always been to provide equal access to care for all.

Need to talk? We’re here to listen and connect you with the care you need. 

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