The School of Public Health’s Health Equity Work Group (HEWG) was first founded in spring 2005 with the goals of conducting, promoting, and providing greater visibility to health equity research; strengthening collaborative efforts; creating lasting partnerships with community-based organizations; and ensuring SPH students and faculty work effectively in a diverse society.
Each year, the HEWG meets to establish specific goals for the coming academic year and formulates subcommittees to accomplish these tasks.
About Health Equity Research
The field of equity research in public health broadly encompasses the study of inequities in attaining optimum health or accessing quality health care among social groups within a population.
Overwhelmingly, current research focuses on racial and ethnic inequities, but the theoretical and empirical models used can and have been extended to other types of social inequities such as those involving socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, geographic location, disability, age, and other conditions.
We take this broad view of health equity:
The University of Minnesota School of Public Health is committed to reducing health inequities through its research, teaching, and community outreach programs. We do so because:
- Health inequities are antithetical to our basic notions about public health. Public health is fundamentally about maximizing the health of populations and eliminating barriers to that goal. Interest in equity research stems partially from the realization that increasing the health of the population has sometimes either created or widened gaps between social groups. Health equity research investigates the process through which these gaps are created and sustained, and potential practice and policy solutions for eliminating inequities.
- Closing the gaps between population subgroups in realizing optimum health and receiving quality health care has received recognition at the national level. It is a central goal of Healthy People 2020 (spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services) and of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
- The topic of health equity has been of special concern in Minnesota. Despite Minnesota’s ranking as one of the nation’s healthiest states, minorities in Minnesota experience shorter life spans, higher rates of infant mortality, higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and poorer general health than Whites (Minnesota Department of Health, 2017). Minnesota is one of two states in the nation to have a legislative initiative with resources targeting the reduction of health inequities.
Health equity is an important global issue. Health inequities are most evident in developing countries and among a number of immigrant groups (Somalis, Hmong) from developing countries now residing in Minnesota.
“Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier. 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.”
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Health disparity is “a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.”
Source: Healthy People 2020
Health Disparities vs. Health Equity
“Health equity and health disparities are intertwined. Health equity means social justice in health (i.e., no one is denied the possibility to be healthy for belonging to a group that has historically been economically/socially disadvantaged). Health disparities are the metric we use to measure progress toward achieving health equity.”
Source: Paula Braverman, MD, MPH, “What Are Health Disparities and Health Equity? We Need to Be Clear”