Equity vs. Equality

Health equity and health equality do not mean the same thing. Equality means giving everyone the same thing, whereas equity means giving people what they need to reach their best health.

For example, in the picture below, three people of different heights are trying to reach the fruit on the tree. In this case, the fruit symbolizes good health. The different heights of the people represents the unequal distribution of the social determinants of health in society.

If we treat these people equally, we would give everyone the same box to stand on, so only the tallest person could reach the fruit. If we treat them equitably, we would give them as many boxes as they need to reach the fruit.

This is an image that displays the difference between equity and equality. For equality, it shows three people, of different heights, on a single box; only one can reach an apple on a tree. For equiity, it shows the same three people with varying number of boxes all able to reach an apple.
Example of Health Equity Adapted with permission from Saskatchewan Health Authority

Factors that Influence Health

Health is influenced by many factors. These include personal characteristics such as sex and genetics, as well as the economic, social and physical environments where we live, learn, work and play. These factors can determine the health issues that a person may face and/or the resources and choices available to them as they try to be and stay healthy.

Health equity exists when everyone has a fair chance to reach their best health. This means that everyone has equal access or opportunity to the factors that can influence our health.

“Health equity means that all people can reach their full health potential and should not be disadvantaged from attaining it because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, social class, socioeconomic status or other socially determined circumstance.” (National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, 2013).

(Source: Canadian Institute for Advanced Research)

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