Did You Know?

Did You Know? - Equity vs. Equality

Did you know… that equity is more impactful than equality when it comes to our health? Take this bicycle graphic for example. If everyone wants to go for a bike ride, everyone needs a bicycle, right? But does everyone need the same (equal) bicycle? No, of course not. Everyone needs the kind of bike that fits their needs (equity). The child needs a child-sized bike. The person in the wheelchair needs a bike with more balance and a different drive chain. When people have what they need, they are able to thrive. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care. We don’t often know what people have gone through that has created their health. Maybe they fell to the intense predatory marketing from the tobacco industry as a teenager and are now addicted to nicotine. Maybe they work two jobs back-to-back and can’t get time off to see a doctor. Maybe they would like to go for a walk, but they use a walker to help them with their balance and their neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks for a safe place to go.

Even though the bicycle graphic does an excellent job depicting individual needs, it is still not complete. What about the person who can’t afford a bike? What about the person who doesn’t have a safe place to ride it? Riding a bike is a complex skill that is learned from many repetitive, and failed, attempts. What if someone didn’t ever have the chance to be taught how? What if someone was bullied when they were first learning and now has traumatic memories? These socioeconomic factors play just as big a role as if the person has a bike or not.

Do you think the bicycle graphic is complete? What about the person that can't afford the bike? What about the person without a safe place to ride? Do you see this translating to other areas in our communities? We'd love to know your thoughts — visit our Facebook post and submit a comment. 

Our "Did You Know?" features are to help members of our communities better understand what supports health, how health is created in the community and how structures inside the community have an influence on health.