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What is Health Equity?

OPHA’s vision of health equity is that all people (individuals, groups and communities) have a fair chance at reaching their full health potential and are not disadvantaged by social, economic and environmental conditions. 

About Health Equity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) equity is defined as:

Equity is the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically (WHO, 2017).

Health equity discusses the concept of every person having an equal opportunity to achieve their optimal health. This concept is different than the idea of everyone having equal health, but rather equal access to resources needed to improve or maintain health (WHO, 2017). Health is affected by many factors beyond genetics or healthcare. The social determinants of health describe the phenomenon of how social constructs can also impact health in ways that may be unfair or unjust for certain groups within a population (Solar & Irwin, 2010).

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OPHA’s Commitment to Health Equity


How does Health Equity Apply to Me?

Source: Sudbury & District Public Health Unit. (2012). Let’s Start a Conversation About Health…and Not Talk About Health Care at All.

The Social Determinants of Health

The social determinants of health describe factors that exist within social systems that can affect health and wellbeing. They represent circumstances that are shaped by economic, social, and political forces in such a way that may have a differential effect on the health of a population (Solar & Irwin, 2010)

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According to The Public Health Agency of Canada (2016), the social determinants of health include:

·         Income and social status
·         Social support networks
·         Education
·         Employment/working conditions
·         Social environments
·         Physical environments
·         Personal health practices and coping skills
·         Healthy child development
·         Gender
·         Culture

The Social Determinants of Health Inequity

The social determinants of health inequity describe the political, economic, cultural, and social contexts that make it such that a social position arises to interact with the social determinants of health, placing some of the population at a disadvantage relative to others (Solar & Irwin, 2010).

Figure adapted from the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy’s simplified representation of Solar & Irwin’s (2010) CSDH WHO Conceptual Framework (Morrison, 2017).


Organizations Working to Advance Health Equity


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Tools and Resources

A Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health (World Health Organization)

Common Agenda for Public Health Action on Health Equity (National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health)

Communicating the Social Determinants of Health: Guidelines for Common Messaging (Canadian Council on Social Determinants of Health)

Health Equity Impact Assessment (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care)

Health Promotion through an Equity Lens (Wellesley Institute)

International Review of Health Equity Strategies (Wellesley Institute for Health Quality Ontario)

Let’s Talk Public Health Roles for Improving Health Equity (National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health)

Planning through an equity lens: Incorporating the Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) 2.0 Tool (Public Health Ontario and Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion)

Ten Promising Practices to Guide Local Public Health Practice to Reduce Social Inequities in Health (Sudbury and District Public Health)

The Diversity and Inclusion Lens Handbook (City of Ottawa and City for All Women Initiative (CAWI))

Tools and Approaches for Assessing and Supporting Public Health Action on the Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity (National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health and National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy)


Interested in getting involved? Cet in touch with us! See our alPHa-OPHA Health Equity Workgroup