Focus On Equity

When mobilizing for health, we must be guided by equity.

What is equity?
Equity refers to the fairness in the distribution of both the benefits and costs of membership in a society. One group does not bear all the burdens while another reaps all the benefits.

In terms of health, equity means ensuring that all people have full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives. Across Wisconsin, there are significant differences in health outcomes (health disparities), and it is critical that obesity prevention efforts consider health gaps in our communities and the root causes of these gaps.

In practice this means that when new policies and programs are designed and implemented, they address specific challenges faced by underserved communities and are explicit in their intent to reduce disparities in the population.

Equity as practice
Principles of equity must guide the process of implementing health promoting strategies. For example, local public health efforts should not come from outside a community with fixed solutions and little community input. Rather, community members should be the driving force behind local public health campaigns. Many health and racial justice groups have resources on both how to ground health solutions in equity and how to practice equity.

Human Impact Partners presents 14 strategies to advance health equity practice, both within organizations and when working with external partners. These are:

Inside strategies: Internally focused practices to advance health equity
1) Focus on addressing the “causes of the causes of health inequities” – oppression and power
2) Prioritize improving the social determinants of health through policy change
3) Build understanding of and capacity to address equity across the organization
4) Support leadership, innovation, and strategic risk-taking to advance equity
5) Change the narrative of what leads to health
6) Commit the organization and its resources to advance equity
7) Use data, research, and evaluation to make the case
8) Change internal practices such as hiring and contracting

Outside strategies: Externally focused practices to advance health equity
1) Build partnerships with communities experiencing health inequities in ways that intentionally share power and decision making and allow for meaningful participation
2) Build alliances and networks with community partners to protect against risk and build power
3) Build alliances with other public agencies
4) Engage strategically in social justice campaigns and movements
5) Change the administrative and regulatory scope of public health practice
6) Join broader public health movements to advance equity is a Human Impact Partners project structured around a set of strategies that health departments and other organizations can apply to more meaningfully and comprehensively advance health equity.

Policylink is a national institute advancing equity by focusing on policy use to create conditions that benefit everyone, especially people in low-income communities and communities of color. Focus areas include transportation, infrastructure, food systems, and health equity and place.

To learn more on how to discuss health disparities in your community, read Health Gaps: A Guide to Continuing the Conversation.