Equality vs. equity in healthcare outcomes

By Karen Krigger, MD

Healthcare quality is often quantifiably measured by health outcomes. Multiple studies support consensus the USA spends more per person than any comparable nation with the worse healthcare outcomes, including life span. The accounting of this discrepancy among comparable nations can be attributable to unrecognized health inequalities driven by recognized, but unattended, social inequities. These terms represent the realm of public health.

Equality vs. Equity

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.  Considering health equality, it would mean everyone, given the same resources or opportunities, would be as healthy, equally, as the next person.

But we know that equal resources and opportunities given to each person does not insure health equality. Hence, we have the concept of health equity. Equity recognizes each person has different circumstances. In the context of health equity, each person is given the exact supplies, means, and opportunities needed to reach the same health outcome.

Equity is the absence or avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically. Thus, health inequities are more than lack of equal access to needed resources to maintain or improve health outcomes. Read more in the January issue of Medical News