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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

March 28, 2017

Health Inequity Versus Health Disparity

Submitted by Debra Bolton

Healthful people live in healthful environments in healthful communities. We know this, and our challenge is to educate around what makes healthful environment and communities.

I’ve been in conversation with many practitioners, researchers, and families who feel the differences between health disparities and health inequities. For help with the terminology: https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/npa/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=1&lvlid=34.

As a quick description, use this:

Health Disparity:
A particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social and/or economic obstacles to health and/or a clean environment based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.

Health Equity:
Attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and healthcare disparities. (Source: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/npa/files/Plans/NSS/NSS_05_Section1.pdf)

The Public Health Law Center, in its statewide workshops, simplifies thusly:
Equity = Fairness and Justice
Disparity = Difference
As educators promoting health and well-being in our communities, we can look at the environments of those families we serve and observe to see if there are differences which contribute to optimal health or less-than-optimal health. Here’s one more.

Social Determinants of Health:
Conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. (Source: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health)