Health Equity: What It Is & Why It Matters
When it comes to health, many factors affect how the odds are stacked. If you thought you noticed the phrase “health equity” in the news much more of late, you’re right.
The years since the pandemic began have brought increased health and wellness challenges for countless individuals, but many communities have been hit harder than others and continue to see growing disparities in the accessibility and quality of care. Consider a grocery store worker with diabetes. Previously, being diabetic wouldn’t introduce any considerable complications or issues to working in their role and fulfilling their duties. Now, grocery store workers are frequently exposed to a dangerous virus, making the risk of complications much more prevalent. Working at home is not an option, and their family may depend on that income for survival.
These types of challenges have only amplified an already existing problem. Healthcare inequity affects many due to their background, culture, race, financial status, or type of employment, whether they live with an illness, disability, or other distinguishing factors. Many healthcare services, like oncology, prenatal care, cardiovascular care, and mental healthcare services, are drastically more inaccessible for many communities and regions across the US, and the drive for health equity aims to close these gaps.
To better understand today’s health equity issues, let’s drill down on what it is and why it matters.
What is Health Equity?
Health equity is the idea that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. While it sounds simple, countless factors called Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) introduce many complications. Things like an affordable living space, a safe neighborhood, good educational opportunities, quality food options, a life without discrimination, a job that pays a living wage, and access to comprehensive health care are not a guarantee, and all contribute to health equity. People need a doctor or other provider close enough for easy travel, some form of transportation, health insurance or another way to pay, time off work, and countless other considerations. Patients who speak English as a second language may need interpreters to assist at medical visits, and medical documents must be translated into multiple languages. All of these variables and challenges significantly impact health equity, but there’s more to it.
The concept of health equity requires healthcare providers to remove obstacles between their patients and good health by examining factors like poverty and discrimination and addressing their consequences. To achieve true health equity, hospitals must actively help people receive the world-class care they deserve.
Why Is Health Equity Important?
Health equity ensures everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to achieve good health regardless of their background or circumstances. This is important for several reasons:
- Addressing health disparities leads to better health outcomes for all populations, reducing the burden of preventable diseases and illnesses on our society as a whole
- A healthier population is more productive and contributes to a healthier, more stable economy
- Addressing health disparities and promoting equity strengthens communities and builds a more resilient society
- Health equity helps promote social cohesion by reducing health-related divisions and promoting a shared sense of responsibility for the health and well-being of our neighbors
What is the Role of Technology in Improving Health Equity?
Technology is more prevalent in our everyday lives than ever, and many healthcare innovators are working to leverage new tech tools to improve health equity. Among the most rapidly emerging are telemedicine or virtual health services designed to help increase access to underserved communities, particularly in rural and remote areas. Technologies for health promotion and literacy, disease prevention, and reliable information through tools like mobile apps and wearables can impact outcomes, reduce disparities, and empower individuals and providers to make more informed decisions. On the product and procedure design and development side, new technologies enable more extensive studies, more data sharing, and better collaboration among researchers, all leading to a better understanding of health disparities and more effective strategies to address them.
Unlocking the Power of Health Equity
The need for fairer and more equal distribution of healthcare resources is more pressing than ever. By addressing the most prevalent issues in health equity, doing the research, and applying the right technologies, hospitals and health systems can improve patient outcomes and reduce the impact of race, ethnicity, income, education, location, and other factors on patient experiences and quality of care.
Want to learn more about how your hospital can meaningfully address the challenges of healthcare inequity and improve outcomes for your patients? See how Companion by Patient Discovery is changing the game by empowering patients to communicate their needs and concerns more actively, alleviating the burden of discovery from care teams, uncovering previously inaccessible patient information, and supporting the shift to value-based care and participation in programs like EOM.
Contact us for more information or to discuss your hospital’s situation.