What is Health Equity, and Why Does it Matter?
Health equity is integral to the pursuit of healthier communities. It is the idea that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstance, should have access to opportunities for good health. This includes equitable access to quality healthcare, social justice initiatives, education programs, and economic opportunities. It also means ensuring health outcomes are not determined by a person’s race, gender, zip code, or socio-economic status. Improving health equity makes good business sense. It leads to decreased healthcare costs, increased productivity, and increased economic growth.
Prioritizing Health Equity
As society has advanced in terms of financial success and social justice, it is essential to recognize not everyone has benefitted equally. Populations remain disproportionately sicker due to their conditions, which necessitates an adjustment in investments toward health equity. Sandro Galea, Dean of Boston University School of Public Health, said, “addressing health gaps requires us to engage with the foundational drivers of health. We can do this by rethinking our strategic investments in health, in both the public and private sector, towards the goal of ending health inequities.” The turn of a new season is an opportunity to re-evaluate public and private health sectors’ allocations with eyes on closing these gaps in well-being—distributing resources more equitably for healthier lives.
The health disparities existing in society have been exacerbated due to the pandemic, making health equity even more critical for the health of communities. In order for health equity to become a reality, there must be a collective effort to address health disparities and create health-promoting policies and environments where everyone can thrive.
Numbers at a Glance
- About 930 million people worldwide are at risk of falling into poverty due to out-of-pocket health spending of 10% or more of their household budget.
- In low-income countries, the mortality rate for children under 5 is about 76 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is over 10 times higher than in high-income countries where the rate is around 6 deaths per 1,000 live births.
- In the United States, Black women are three to four times more likely to experience pregnancy-related deaths compared to white women.
How Businesses Can Help
Businesses have an important role to play in helping to create health equity. Business practices, products, and services influence the social determinants of health, which are key conditions that support health equity. Where a person lives, their schools and opportunities for learning, access to healthy housing, healthy foods, safe outdoor spaces, reliable transportation, and economic stability are key indicators of health. Designing products and services that improve the social determinants of health reduces health inequities. Within a business, implementing policies that prioritize the health and well-being of all employees, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status promotes health equity. This includes initiatives such as providing access to affordable healthcare, offering paid sick leave and mental health support, and investing in workplace safety measures.
By working together, businesses can play a role in creating health equity for all members of society. Additionally, companies can support community-based organizations that work towards improving the health outcomes of marginalized populations. Companies can look for opportunities with us here at idea hub and researchers to invest in ideas that foster health equity. By taking these steps, businesses can help ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to live a healthy life, not just those who are financially or socially privileged.
By understanding health equity and the disparities in our health system, businesses can take meaningful steps toward creating healthier communities where everyone has an equal opportunity for health and well-being. Through investments, partnerships, and health-focused initiatives, businesses can play an important role in creating health equity for all.