Toward health equity - what is it?

Committing to Equity

Implementing equity-oriented health care can involve a lot of change: to knowledge, practices, policies, the physical space within your organization, among others. 

Equity Health Care - Module 8

Equip Health Care - excerpts from online modules 

As we know, equity and equality are not the same. Sometimes, those with less need a bit more to help them reach equivalent outcomes. Health equity is about recognizing that there are differences within and between groups of people in accessing what makes people healthy — including social and health care services. These differences range from the individual to the systems level, and many of them can be avoided, and changed.

Therefore health inequities are defined as unjust and avoidable differences in health between and within groups of people. For example, the health and well being of Indigenous peoples continues to lag behind that of the overall Canadian population on virtually every measure. This is not related to “lifestyle factors”, but rather, reflects historical and ongoing constraints on health and well being.

Health equity is a social justice goal focused on pursuing the highest possible standard of healthcare for all people, paying special attention to those at greater risk of poor health, and taking into account broad social, political, and economic influences and access to care. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all people have full access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives.

Key Dimensions 

Research has identified three key dimensions that are essential to equity-oriented health care (EOHC):

  • Trauma-and-violence-informed care (see Module 3)
  • Culturally safe care (see Module 4)
  • Harm reduction (see Module 5)

Each of these has its own particular focus in terms of how to work with individual clients, but also how to make your overall services more responsive to their needs. While each is covered in its own Module, they are inter-linked. This module provides an overview of equity-oriented health care, and some cross-cutting considerations. More detail on how to implement the dimensions is available in our tool below, providing 10 strategies to assist with implementation.

Understanding the role of gender and other social factors

As we tailor the key dimensions of equity-oriented health care to our organizational contexts, it’s also important to keep in mind the client-level tailoring that also needs to happen.  Key socio-demographic factors, including, gender, race/ethnicity, age, ability, and others, shape our clients’ experiences and mean that achieving equity will look slightly different, depending on these factors, and broader circumstances, such as housing, income, etc.

Further Reading & Resources