Health equity exists when all people have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential, regardless of:
- The color of their skin.
- Where they were born.
- Their level of education.
- Their gender identity.
- Their sexual orientation.
- The religion they practice.
- The job they have.
- The language they speak.
- The neighborhood they live in.
- Whether or not they have a disability.
However, not everyone in Washington State has this opportunity. Many communities experience health inequities because of their race, culture, identity or where they live.
The Causes of Inequities
Health inequities exist when there is a difference in health outcomes across different groups of people, and that difference is caused by something:
- Systematic (carefully planned)
- Unfair and unjust
Example of inequity: The neighborhood with the highest obesity rates in a city is also the neighborhood with the highest proportion of people of color. The people live in this neighborhood because of residential segregation practices. This neighborhood has no parks, no sidewalks, and limited access to healthy foods.
The city council and commissions have never had a representative from this area. The wealthier, white neighborhoods that the representatives come from have received funding for parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, and a farmers market.
Systematic: Decades of residential segregation practices lead to economic, racial and health inequality.
Avoidable: The higher obesity rates could be avoided through environmental changes like bike lanes and supermarkets.
Unfair and Unjust: The distribution of resources to the wealthier, white neighborhoods because of the representatives' self-interests is unfair and unjust.
Promoting Equity, Undoing Inequity
We all have a role and responsibility in promoting equity and undoing inequity.
We know issues like racism are so systemic that it requires a strong, continuous and coordinated effort to critically look at the policies, systems, practices and personal biases that continue to give advantage to some communities over others.
Promoting equity requires attention to the root causes of health issues and a focus on the communities that are most affected.
When we commit to reexamining our priorities and the way we do our work, we are part of the effort to undo inequity. When we do not make this commitment, our work can actually contribute to widening inequities.
Join in the effort by learning about:
- The influence of race and place on health.
- Opportunities for involvement.
- Data and tools for policy and project planning.
- Professional development resources.
Current Efforts and Resources
- Secretary's Directive 19-01: Reaffirming the Department of Health's Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Humility (PDF)
- COVID-19 Community Outreach Contracts
- Equity Impact Assessments (Word)
- Supporting COVID-19 Health Equity Through Community Engagement
- Language Access Planning Tool (PDF)
- Ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities for COVID-19 vaccine (PDF)
- COVID-19 Response Language Access Plan
- COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Collaborative
- Department of Health Community Engagement Guide (PDF)
- The Washington Tracking Network (WTN) - Information by Location (IBL) Mapping Tool for Health Disparities
- Common definitions related to health equity (PDF)
- What is health equity? This video from the Health Equity Institute explains how social, economic and environmental conditions can create health inequities.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
- The American Public Health Association, Health Equity
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