There are many things to consider when addressing health issues within our communities, including equity.
Health equity is achieved when all people are provided with a fair opportunity to realize their full health potential. This, of course, is much easier said than done. It’s important to understand and recognize what may impact equity in your community as well as the steps you can take towards addressing and achieving equity.
Is equity the same as equality? No.
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and the image to the left is a great representation of the difference in these two terms. On the left, all three of the individuals received the same intervention, a crate to stand on in order to watch the baseball game. Although it is helpful, they do not all benefit in the same manner. On the right, the intervention is adjusted to the needs of each person so that all three individuals have the same access, in this case seeing over the fence to watch the game.
Now, think about your community and how this may apply.
Are there parks that certain groups can’t access due to transportation or safety concerns? Are there farmers markets available, but inaccessible for some due to distance or economic concerns? Achieving equity is a difficult undertaking but crucial to the overall health and well-being of a community.
So, what are some ways in which equity can be addressed?
First, the issues need to be understood. Both qualitative and quantitative data are useful for gaining insight into how and why these issues are affecting community members. Gathering feedback can help determine whether the data matches the community members’ experiences and views on the issues, which is a very important consideration when trying to get a clear idea of community needs.
Expanding active engagement and collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders will help achieve broad, meaningful and sustainable impacts and will help those involved understand the different populations and diverse perspectives represented. When communicating about health equity while working together for the betterment of the community, it’s important to know (1) what you want to change, (2) what the vision for success looks like, and (3) to listen and allow others to speak openly so that everyone’s perspective is heard.
For more information be sure to check out the Health Equity Toolkit from Plan4Health and A Practitioner’s Guide for Advancing Health Equity: Community Strategies for Preventing Chronic Disease from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These resources can help users better understand health equity, health inequalities and the social determinants of health. In addition, they can be used to inform communities on how to work towards addressing existing issues.