Health Equity: What You Need To Know

  • Dana Visnitchi MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Chimdi Okoye Bachelor of Science - BS, Pharmaceutical Science with Regulatory Affairs, Kingston University

Get health & wellness advice into your inbox

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers. If you do not agree to these placements, please do not provide the information.

Best Milk Alternative

Are you familiar with the concept of “health equity”?This term has been mentioned more in the media since the COVID-19 pandemic after the health system became even more saturated than normal. Since then, many people have struggled to become and stay healthy. But how is all this related?

Health equity is the idea that everyone should achieve their optimal level of health despite their socioeconomic and cultural circumstances. Considering health is a human right, it’s important to identify and eliminate the obstacles impeding the achievement of health. 

This article aims to help you understand what health equity is, why it’s important and how sociocultural elements and disparities can impact it. 

What is health equity?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers health equity as the attainment of your full potential health and well-being despite your social, economic, demographic and geographic circumstances, as well as other parameters like sex, age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. 

Having a clear definition of this concept and fully understanding what it means is extremely important to take effective action and fight against the obstacles and disparities in health. This will allow everyone to have a fair opportunity to be healthy.

Before reading further, it’s important to know the difference between equity and equality:

  • Equity: recognising that people face different adversities, thus fairly allocating resources and opportunities for each person (some more, some less) for an equal outcome
  • Equality: allocating the same resources and opportunities to each person

What are health disparities?

Health disparities are the difficulties you might face in the quality of your health and healthcare, which include but are not limited to:2

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Geographic location
  • Gender
  • Access to healthcare

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same access to healthcare resources today due to the current events of the world. This highlights the inequality some people face and reinforces the need for the government and healthcare organisations to work together to solve these problems. 

Types of health disparities

Socioeconomic status

This is a multifactorial concept that encompasses your income, wealth, and education. Individuals with a lower socioeconomic status are more likely to experience poor health. This could be due to insufficient funds to afford medications and equipment (e.g., glasses, hearing aids, etc.), healthcare services, and nutritious food. Additionally, your level of education can also influence your health. People with higher degrees are more likely to know and be aware of mental issues, balanced diets, and potential hazards they might experience at work or somewhere else.2,3

A study revealed that in the UK, elderly individuals with low socioeconomic status are more at risk of developing chronic illnesses, disabilities and shorter life expectancy compared with counterparts who had higher incomes and education levels.3

Gender

Something else to consider is gender. Assigned females at birth (AFAB) are more likely to be misdiagnosed, especially when it comes to depression, eating disorders, disabilities related to domestic and sexual violence, and age. 

Furthermore, there are gender issues in medical research. For instance, cardiovascular problems are the first cause of mortality in AFAB. However, research has mostly been conducted on assigned males at birth (AMAB). Whilst risk factors and symptoms manifest between genders, this is still unknown to plenty of people, as until recently, the same conditions were considered and applied to different gender groups. Other medical fields that also present different clinical manifestations, prognosis, treatment and side effects are cancer, liver diseases, osteoporosis and medical drug development.4 The medical and scientific field needs to be reorganised, and new policies should be created to have equilibrated methods that focus on all genders equally.  

AMAB also appear to pay less attention to health-related issues and make less use of health services. This may be due to social bias and stigma. This could change through education and the support of your community.

Race and ethnicity

Another disparity you may be facing is due to your race or ethnicity. This is a major obstacle that is still present in the healthcare system because of systemic racism, attitudes, policies or laws that lead to unfair or harmful treatment of patients because of their race or bias from professionals. Racial discrimination results in poorer mental and physical health. Even though most research about race and ethnicity and health has been conducted more in the US, people also face this type of injustice in the UK.

There is a study that revealed that in the US, Black patients had longer waiting periods, longer lengths of stay, lower classifications of emergencies, decreased admissions and increased hospital deaths in the emergency department compared to White patients.6  

Changing laws and policies, educating ourselves about these issues, and showing our support for the cause are steps to prevent these things from happening.

Geographic location

Geographic location is another factor that can contribute to health disparities. The presence of healthcare services in your area will determine how quickly you can receive attention and treatment. Moreover, accessing certain types of care in rural areas might be more difficult due to the lack of professionals available. Consequently, this requires you as a patient to have certain resources, such as a way of transport and, in some cases, money, to be able to receive appropriate care. Remote healthcare has indeed become more common since the pandemic, where you can be consulted by your general practitioner through the phone or video. Nonetheless, there are still some things to consider. This type of consultation requires you to have access to technology and know how to use it, which might be difficult for older people. Remote care might be convenient for certain things, but it should not be a substitute for treating chronic diseases. In addition, if you have a language barrier, it might be difficult for you to express yourself and explain your problems.7

Key principles to achieve health equity

These are the key principles that need to be followed to achieve health equity:

  • Remove all the previously mentioned obstacles to health and health services.
  • (Re)design and apply policies, laws, systems and environmental improvements that have a positive impact on health equity
  • Ensure living and working conditions are favourable, as they impact health
  • Improve everyone’s health, dedicating more resources to those in need. Note that equity is not the same as equality
  • Optimise the existing strengths of groups experiencing obstacles
  • Multifactorial approaches that focus on improving socioeconomic resources and teaching the ways to deal with issues of health equity
  • Measure and document disparities to ensure progress is being made
  • Constant work and commitment to improve health for everyone 

Summary

Health equity means that everyone should have a fair opportunity to achieve optimal physical and mental health, despite their income, wealth, social status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and other circumstances. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are facing health disparities or obstacles due to the mentioned circumstances. Individuals with lower socioeconomic status suffer from more health problems. Gender influences the symptoms, prognosis, diagnosis, treatment and side effects of certain illnesses. Ethnicity can result in systematic racism as well as in overall poorer health. Geographic location can make access to healthcare services more difficult. Health is a human right, so eliminating these obstacles is important. This can be done through changes in laws and policies, adequate use of resources, and commitment to the cause.  

FAQ’s

What is needed to achieve health equity?

To achieve health equity, historical and contemporary injustices need to be addressed and improved. Socio-economic situations should be as good as possible for everyone; gender and racial issues have to be solved. Healthcare services should be available for everyone everywhere, and optimal care should be provided.

References

  1. Braveman P, Arkin E, Orleans T, Proctor D, Plough A. What is health equity? And what difference does a definition make? [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 20]. Available from: https://resources.equityinitiative.org/handle/ei/418
  2. Braveman P. What are health disparities and health equity? We need to be clear. Public Health Rep [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2024 Feb 21];129(Suppl 2):5–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863701/
  3. Rahman MdM, Khan HTA, Hafford-Letchfield T. Correlates of socioeconomic status and the health of older people in the united kingdom: a review. Illness, Crisis & Loss [Internet]. 2016 Oct [cited 2024 Feb 21];24(4):195–216. Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1054137315608347
  4. Baggio G, Corsini A, Floreani A, Giannini S, Zagonel V. Gender medicine: a task for the third millennium. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM) [Internet]. 2013 Apr 1 [cited 2024 Feb 21];51(4):713–27. Available from: https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/cclm-2012-0849/html
  5. Hackett RA, Ronaldson A, Bhui K, Steptoe A, Jackson SE. Racial discrimination and health: a prospective study of ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2020 Nov 18 [cited 2024 Feb 21];20(1):1652. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09792-1
  6. Macias-Konstantopoulos WL, Collins KA, Diaz R, Duber HC, Edwards CD, Hsu AP, et al. Race, healthcare, and health disparities: a critical review and recommendations for advancing health equity. West J Emerg Med [Internet]. 2023 Sep [cited 2024 Feb 21];24(5):906–18. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10527840/
  7. Vodička S, Zelko E. Remote consultations in general practice – a systematic review. Zdr Varst [Internet]. 2022 Sep 28 [cited 2024 Feb 21];61(4):224–30. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9597895/

Get health & wellness advice into your inbox

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers. If you do not agree to these placements, please do not provide the information.

Best Milk Alternative
[optin-monster-inline slug="yw0fgpzdy6fjeb0bbekx"]
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Dana Visnitchi

MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

I’m an early career with a degree in Neuroscience with Psychology, who is passionate about mental health, and aims to promote it to a large audience without a scientific background. I’m also interested in skincare and cardiovascular health, and always keen to expand my knowledge. I have previous experience in literature search, creating content for different audiences, and making contributions to a published research paper about Gender Dysphoria. I’m currently focused on exploring medical communications to have a significant impact on the healthcare community.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Email:
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818