Health equity means the Opportunity for All (PDF, 4.10 MB) to achieve their full health potential regardless of their social position or other socially determined circumstances.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy. This is in large part due to our access to and experiences with the social determinants of health. Health differences that are the result of inequitable experiences of the social determinants of health are called health inequities.
Health inequities are:
- Systematic, meaning that health differences are patterned, where we generally observe that health improves at each rung up the social and income ladder.
- Socially produced, through the social and economic conditions of our society. Because they are socially produced, they are also avoidable by ensuring that everyone has access to the social and economic conditions needed for good health.
- Unfair, because opportunities for health and well-being are limited depending on the social or economic position of a person or group.
Social determinants of health
The social and economic environments where we live are critical to our health and well-being. While health care and lifestyle behaviours are important, health is also the result of social and economic factors and conditions that influence the daily environments in which we live, work, play, learn, and grow. Collectively, these factors are known as the social determinants of health.
This is particularly important for Indigenous communities and peoples whose unique legal and constitutional recognition, complex history, and shared experiences of colonialization have contributed to poorer population health outcomes than that of other Ontarians.
The Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: Health Equity Guideline (2018) recognizes sixteen key social determinants of health:
- access to health services
- culture, race, and ethnicity
- early childhood development
- education, literacy, and skills
- employment, job security, and working conditions
- food insecurity
- gender identity and expression
- income and income distribution
- Indigenous status
- personal health practices and resiliency
- physical environments
- sexual orientation and attraction
- social inclusion/exclusion
- social support networks
More detailed information on the social determinants of health can be found through the World Health Organization.
Health is more than health care
Health is about much more than access to medical care. Everyone has different opportunities for health and these opportunities are largely influenced by their social and economic conditions.
Let’s Start a Conversation About Health and Not Talk About Health Care at All
This five-minute video describes actions that people, organizations, and health care professionals can take to reduce health inequities in our community. It encourages everyone to start a conversation about health—and not talk about health care at all.
The Let’s Start a Conversation About Health and Not Talk About Health Care at All user guide (PDF, 2.39MB) was developed to further engage people and organizations from all sectors in the achievement of healthy communities. Originally created as a resource to support public health staff, we hope that other community partners―schools, social services, businesses, community groups―also find it informative and useful.
This document is not accessible, for an accessible version please contact Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 771 (toll-free at 1.866.522.9200).
Health equity foundational standard
The Ontario Public Health Standards define the role of public health in addressing the social determinants of health.
Public Health is mandated to meet four requirements within the Health Equity Foundational Standard. These four roles build on the National Collaborating Centre for the Determinant’s of Health: Let’s Talk Public Health Roles for Improving Health Equity and are further described in relation to public health practice in Ontario by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care within the Health Equity Guideline and in accordance with the Relationship with Indigenous Communities Guideline.
- Assess and report on the health of our communities, including explicit reporting on the existence and impact of health inequities and effective local strategies for decreasing health inequities.
- Modify/orient public health practices to decrease health inequities, especially among priority populations.
- Engage in multisectoral collaboration with municipalities, community stakeholders and partners, and Indigenous and First Nation communities to identify and develop ways to improve health and to share effective strategies to address health inequities.
- Lead/participate to support and work with others to review and create opportunities to make lasting changes to improve the health of our communities.
Health equity and Public Health Sudbury & Districts
Public Health Sudbury & Districts believes that no one in our community should be at risk of poor health because of the social and economic environments that they live in. The agency is committed to actions that will reduce health inequities and create opportunities for all members of our communities to be healthy and create change.
The Opportunity for All: The Path to Health Equity (PDF, 4.09 MB) report includes the Health Equity Vision 2020 and directs agency efforts to work to improve the overall health and health equity of area citizens so that:
- systemic and avoidable health disparities are steadily reduced and the gap in health between the best and worst off is narrowed;
- all citizens have equal opportunities for good health and well-being; and
- all citizens have equitable access to a full range of high-quality public health programs and services.
The Social Inequities in Health and the Sudbury & District Health Unit: Building Our Path for the Next 10 Years report (PDF, 274 KB) describes the process to develop a vision for our organization to address social inequities in health.
The 10 Promising Practices to Guide Local Public Health to Reduce Social Inequities in Health is the result of a review and analysis of the literature that yielded ten public health practices, relevant at a local level, that are at least “promising” in their potential to contribute to reductions in social inequities in health.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts recognizes that economic security of employees contributes to increased health and wellbeing for workers as well as the community as a whole. The agency is committed to paying all its staff a living wage. A living wage fosters a skilled and healthy workforce that has a higher job satisfaction, greater quality of life, and an increased ability to actively participate in communities to make positive and equitable change. Learn more about Sudbury living wage and how is it calculated.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts is committed to building meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities in its service area. As part of this commitment and under the direction of the Board of Health, Public Health Sudbury & Districts developed an Indigenous Engagement Strategy.
This work has been conducted in consultation with many Indigenous community partners. The strategy has been informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in health as well as the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Relationship with Indigenous Communities Guideline, 2018.
This item was last modified on November 25, 2022