Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Control:
What We Are Doing to Address Health Inequities
Health inequities are differences in health outcomes or distribution of health-related goods or services between population groups that are caused by systematic, avoidable and unjust advantages given to one group over another. These differences in opportunity, support and access are based upon race discrimination, class oppression, or gender exploitation. They usually can be traced to distinctions between:
- socioeconomic status,
- sexual orientation,
- disability status, and/or
- geographic location.
What Are We Doing About Them?
We recognize that the beliefs and practices we bring to our work can add to this inequality and result in certain groups of people having fewer socioeconomic opportunities and more health risks. We also know that unequal distributions of power and unequal access to healthy food, good housing, good education, and safe neighborhoods can have a negative impact on the health of the people in a community.
Therefore, we believe one of our most important challenges as public health professionals is to critically examine — and address — the personal, institutional and cultural beliefs and practices that may contribute to these inequalities.
To that end, Division staff members are working in groups to learn about health inequity and social justice issues, discuss how those issues relate to the work we do, and share ideas for improving our Division-wide knowledge and practices to ensure health equity and social justice are founding principles of all we do.
Where to Get More Information
One of the most important resources in our ongoing work has been the Web-based Roots of Health Inequity course, developed by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). The free course offers public health professionals and other interested individuals a place to investigate the relationship between social justice and everyday public health practice.
A number of other online resources also offer research-supported learning materials. They include:
- the MDHHS Health Disparities Reduction and Minority Health Section website;
- the MDHHS Practices to Reduce Infant Mortality through Equity (PRIME) project website;
- the online Holes in the Mitten: Health Equity in Michigan toolkit;
- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Equity web portal;
- the CDC's Social Determinants of Health web portal;
- the CDC's Healthy Communities Program website;
- the CDC's online, evidence-based Community Guide to what works to promote healthy communities;
- the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Social Determinants of Health portal;
- the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America website;
- the Prevention Institute's Health Equity web portal; and
- the website of the award-winning PBS documentary series "Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?"
The website of the CDC Division of Community Health also houses a wealth of resources, including A Practitioner's Guide for Advancing Health Equity: Community Strategies for Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication from the Prevention Institute and the CDC that helps public health practitioners work at the community level to tackle health inequities.
We urge you to explore these and other healthy equity and social justice tools to learn what can be done to improve health equity and promote social justice in your community.
To find out more about our Division's work in these areas, contact Michigan WISEWOMAN Program Public Health Consultant Viki Lorraine (ph: 517-335-9966; e-mail: LorraineV@michigan.gov).