By Dennis Archambault
This May, after months of research, reflection and consultation among the nation’s leaders in health disparities and health equity research and policy, under the auspices of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a unified definition of health equity was arrived at:
“Health Equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”
Paula Braveman, a physician and public health practitioner, the director of the Center on Social Disparities in Health, was one of the framers of this definition. She writes in a recent Health Affairs journal blog post, “The growing interest in health equity – and in getting clearer about a definition – signals readiness for a paradigm shift in the focus of health equity research and action in this country… and a willingness to say: This is about core values – namely, fairness and justice.”
Dr. Braveman adds that while this is a time when health policy experts are willing to have tough conversations about the policies and programs that have led to inequitable gaps in health, “Unfortunately, the current national political context is more hostile to health equity – and to justice in general – than any other during my lifetime. And that makes it all the more crucial for us to be crystal clear and strategic in our words as well as our deeds.”
Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, for Authority Health.