“Health equity” has become an increasingly popular and widely used term among foundations, policymakers, elected officials and others worldwide. Yet there isn’t a single or universal definition of the phrase. When The Colorado Trust refers to health equity, we mean ending inequalities that affect racial, ethnic, low-income and other vulnerable populations, so that everyone will have fair and equal opportunities to achieve good health.
That definition of health equity is inherent to our organizational vision—that “all Coloradans have fair and equal opportunities to lead healthy, productive lives regardless of race, ethnicity, income or where we live.”
Social determinants of health
The social determinants of health (SDOH) are important aspects that influence our overall health. These include where we live, the education we receive, the work we do, the wages we earn and the opportunity to make decisions that affect our own and our family’s health.
There are also multiple definitions of the SDOH. The Trust defines the SDOH via the World Health Organization as the complex, integrated and overlapping social structures and economic systems that include the social environment, physical environment and health services—structural and societal factors that are responsible for most health inequities.
Health inequities arise because of the circumstances in which people grow, live, work and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. The conditions in which people live are, in turn, shaped by political, social and economic forces. SDOH include the following:
- Early childhood development, schools, education, literacy
- Economy, jobs, employment, occupation, working conditions, income, wealth
- Housing, transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, healthy food access
- Social status, culture, social network, political clout, justice
- Environment, pollution, hazards
All of the above are important parts of our foundation’s grant evaluation process and our health equity theory of change (our “roadmap” to success). Below is a chart on the SDOH that includes questions and discussion topics to spur further conversation (the chart is available for download in .pdf format in both English and Spanish). For more, please visit our Creating Change and Our Approach to Learning pages for more information.