Equity can be such a touchy subject to address sometimes. I feel we as a society are more open to the idea of equality and we all would love to ensure that everyone gets treated equally, or the same; but herein lies the contradiction.  As I have posted in the past “In order to understand that we are all equal one has to start by realizing that we are all different…” When we intend to treat everyone as equals we disregard the fact that people’s experiences are not a dipole of contrasting colors but an ever-expanding continuum of shades. I believe that equality should not be a course of action but a by-product of our actions.

As defined by the World Health Organization “Equity is the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically. Health inequities therefore involve more than inequality with respect to health determinants, access to the resources needed to improve and maintain health or health outcomes. They also entail a failure to avoid or overcome inequalities that infringe on fairness and human rights norms.”

In laypersons terms, equality strives to ensure that everyone gets the same “tools” in order to make the best of them and enjoy healthy, productive lives. Equity in contrast implies understanding the needs of the individual and providing the “tools” THEY need so they can make the best out of them and enjoy healthy productive lives. At a glance both approaches intend to promote a fair and just outcome but equality would only work if everyone had a similar set of needs and conditions at their disposal.

Cultivating equity requires stepping out of our comfort zones, acknowledging our advantages while also admitting to our disadvantages and owning them. If you may, assume life is a running track. To make sure that all runners are treated equally the starting places have to be staggered to offset the disadvantage the oval shape of the track creates for the runners. I find it very hard to believe that anyone would protest this placement as it is obvious in the long run this is the most just and equal layout.

Equality based approaches to health, economic, gender and social issues are akin (in my opinion) to “placing the cart in front of the horse.” Probably it will still get some of the work done but not in the most effective way because economic, racial and cultural gaps are not taken into account.

Let’s start the snowball effect towards change by giving ourselves the space and permission to take a good look at our equals and finding those differences that make us all unique; let’s not take these differences as flaws but instead as individual starting points that need to be staggered to make the race a just one for everyone. If we see equity as the means we should find that the end product is a more equal world.

Written By: Gustavo Adolfo

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The Institute for Latinx Health Equity is a growing collaborative of public health researchers, behavioral scientists, community leaders, capacity building specialists and social justice advocates. We strive to disseminate information about issues pertinent to health disparities and inequity. Follow us, join us, comment and add your voice to ours.

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