What is Health Equity?
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of “excellent health” that is achieved through “safe, effective and timely delivery of high quality health care and services.” Various definitions have been employed over the years for various purposes. The definition as we know it today was developed through the effort and research of the World Health Organization and the United Nations. It defines health as the condition in which the person’s physical and mental capacities are able to perform the activities of daily life without the need for specialized medical care or assistance.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); in its role as a federal agency designed to enhance health, promotes health and provides services and programs that promote health. In carrying out its mandate, the department has a wide range of goals, including improving health education and awareness, promoting healthy living, reducing health disparities, increasing access to health services and promoting social determinants of health. These determinants are primarily social and include such factors as the location of health service facilities, access to health information and prevention and treatment of known diseases. Some states, like Montana, have further defined the scope of health promotion and protection by adding criteria for health equity.
The federal government has also taken steps to improve the quality of health care and has developed a framework for promoting healthy aging, preventing and treating depression and stress, promoting healthy food choices, and maintaining a healthy environment. All of these public health objectives are intertwined with each other and interdependent, and the entire process is known as “the Public Health System”. For many people, the overall health care system refers to their private doctor or hospital. People want to be aware of what they are paying for, why, and what they can do to better evaluate their own health care.