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Defining Health Equity

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What is health equity?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to "attain his or her full health potential" and no one is "disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances," such as

• color of their skin
• level of education
• gender identity
• sexual orientation
• the job they have
• the neighborhood they live in
• whether or not they have been incarcerated
• whether or not they have a disability

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What are health disparities?

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Health disparities are differences in health outcomes and their determinants between segments of the population, as defined by social, demographic, environmental, and geographic attributes. Health inequalities is a term sometimes used interchangeably with the term health disparities. It is more often used in the scientific and economic literature to refer to summary measures of population health associated with individual- or group specific attributes (e.g., income, education, or race/ethnicity).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC health disparities and inequalities report - United States, 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(Supplement):1-113.

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What are social determinants (or socioeconomic determinants) of health?

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and World Health Organization, social determinants of health are the aspects of the environment in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age, as well as the systems put in place that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. These aspects are shaped by a wider set of forces (e.g., economics, social policies, and politics).