Defining Health Equity

What is Health Equity?

Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as the "attainment of the highest level of health for all people." Watch our 'What is Health Equity' video for more information.

Why does it matter?

Everyone deserves a fair chance to lead a healthy life. No one should be denied this chance because of who they are or their socio-economic opportunities

How do we work to achieve health equity?

To achieve health equity, we must eliminate avoidable health inequities and health disparities requiring short-and long-term actions, including:

  • Attention to the root causes of health inequities and health disparities, specifically health determinants, a principal focus of Healthy People 2020.
  • Particular attention to groups that have experienced major obstacles to health associated with socio-economic disadvantages and historical and contemporary injustices.
  • Promotion of equal opportunities for all people to be healthy and to seek the highest level of health possible.
  • Distribution of socio-economic resources needed to be healthy in a manner that progressively reduces health disparities and improves health for all.
  • Continuous efforts to maintain a desired state of equity after avoidable health inequities and health disparities are eliminated.


  • Health Equity: Attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Health Equity means efforts to ensure that all people have full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives.  Learn more from our Health Equity Framework

The concepts of health equity and health disparity are inseparable in their practical implementation. Policies and practices aimed at promoting the goal of health equity will not immediately eliminate all health disparities, but they will provide a foundation for moving closer to that goal.

Summarized from Healthy People 2020  

Helpful Resources

What is Health Equity?: A video from The Health Equity Institute

Dr. Cynthia A. Gómez, HEI Director, talks about Health Equity on 'Science Studio,' a radio show

Healthy People 2020: Social Determinants of Health

Healthy People 2020: Health Disparities and Health Equity

The National Association of County and City Health Officials presents The Roots of Health Inequity: A Web-Based Course for the Public Health Workforce

Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health

The Community Guide’s Model for Linking the Social Environment to Health 

California Office of Health Equity


  1. Content adapted from Healthy People 2020 and CA Health and Safety Code
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities. The National Plan for Action Draft as of February 17, 2010. Chapter 1: Introduction. Available here
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020. Washington, DC. Available here.