National Academy of Medicine

It Matters How We Define Health Care Equity

By Allan Goldberg
January 18, 2013 | Commentary

Equity is not a contemporary concept. The Oxford English Dictionary defines equity as “the quality of being fair and impartial: equity of treatment. A branch of law that developed alongside common law in order to remedy some of its defects in fairness and justice, formerly administered in special courts: if there is any conflict between the principles of common law and equity, equity prevails.”

The definition of health equity has evolved over time, with the principal focus on the individual and the attainment of social justice. In order to maximize the delivery of high-quality health care and avoidance of disparities, it is necessary to ensure that the concept of health equity is clearly defined. Ambiguity in the definition may result in harmful policy consequences. In due course, this can determine which measures are monitored at the national, state, and local level with impacts on resource allocation to address disparities and health equity (Braveman, 2006).

 

Note

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.