This paper from PolicyLink outlines principles for achieving health equity that move beyond identifying health disparities. The term “health equity” broadens the disparities concept by asking, “Why are some populations at greater risk of illnesses and preventable deaths than others?” This question leads to a deeper analysis and exploration of the causative factors that contribute to disparities. Health equity focuses on the root causes or social determinants of health. It requires broadening our definition of “health” to mean one’s overall quality of life, an analysis of socioeconomic factors, including education, income and wealth inequality, and a willingness to address racial and social inequality. These are the factors that impact a person’s overall quality of life and life expectancy. When health is measured not just by a lack of diseases and illness, but by access to opportunities, we see that some populations have greater access to opportunities than others.
This paper lifts up place-based strategies that are informed by the environments where people live, work, attend school, and spend time. The solutions are grounded in strengthening communities, engaging non-health sectors, lifting up promising practices, advancing progressive policy options, and identifying research gaps that can make the case for prioritizing health equity strategies.