Health equity occurs when all people “attain the highest level of health”1.  Health equity is related to societal factors that can be changed for better overall health.  These include many different aspects of life, including the community you live in.  Public health professionals have called these “social determinants of health.”

Social determinants of health are a way of looking at someone’s health based on factors such as where they live, how much money they earn, and food options available to them.  These are not the only considerations that determine health though.  Even the quality of your education can help determine your health status.  Social determinants of health play a critical role in health disparities. 

A health disparity occurs when one population experiences worse health outcomes than are expected, considering their proportion in the overall population. They may or may not be caused by societal factors. Populations often affected by health disparities include racial/ethnic minorities, gender, disability, LGBTQ2 individuals and geographic location. For example the African-American population made up nearly 50% of people living with HIV/AIDS in 20073 while representing only 13% of the U. S. population.  If there were no disparity, they would make up about 13% of the HIV/AIDS population. Click here to learn more about health disparities in different populations in Pennsylvania.

Cultural Competency is having the skills needed to work well with people from different backgrounds and cultures.  Cultural Competency assists health care professionals in providing beneficial care to patients from diverse backgrounds. 

Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services - As a result of recognizing how a patient's background and culture affects their personal beliefs on healthcare and how it may impact the treatment they receive from their health care provider, the U. S Department of Health and Human Services, with its Office of Minority Health, developed national standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS).   


1Healthy People 2020 “Disparities

2LGBTQ:  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer

3National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fact SheetsHealth Disparities