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Cara Broich,  Chair, Medica Health Equity Workgroup

The Terms Matter: Do you know what they mean? Health Equity Part 1

When everyone has a fair opportunity to attain their health potential, health equity can be achieved.

This requires focused and ongoing efforts to address injustices; overcome economic, social and other obstacles to health and healthcare; and eliminate preventable health disparities.

Health inequities are reflected in differences in life expectancy; quality of life; rates of disease, disability, and death; severity of disease; and access to health care resources and treatment.

We hear the terms related to health equity often, but do you understand their meaning?

Test your knowledge with this quick quiz:

  1. Populations that do not have adequate access to medical care and may face economic, cultural, or linguistic barriers to health care are considered ___.
  2. The difference between breast cancer mortality rates for black women vs. white women is an example of ___.
  3. People in certain neighborhoods are at higher risk for chronic diseases, such as asthma and obesity, and may have shorter life expectancies. This is an example of _____.
  1. A health inequity
  2. A health disparity
  3. Medically Underserved Populations

Answers below.

Now, let’s explore these terms in more detail

Disparities vs. Inequities

Differences in health status and mortality rates across population groups are health disparities. For example diabetes rates are higher in populations of color compared to white populations.

Health inequities are differences in health status and mortality rates across population groups that are systemic, avoidable, unfair, and unjust. One example is dentists refusing to accept patients on Medical Assistance or Medicaid and only accepting sources of payment with higher reimbursement rates.

These terms are often used synonymously, but they have subtle differences. In short, a disparity is a noticeable difference in health status rates between groups while inequities are caused by differences in the availability or accessibility of social, economic, environmental, or health care resources.

Medically Underserved Populations 

Medically Underserved Populations (MUPS) are designated by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a high elderly population. MUPs may exist in both rural and urban settings. These populations may be disadvantaged because of ability to pay, ability to access comprehensive healthcare, or face other cultural or linguistic barriers such as race, religion, language, or social status. Specific groups that may be identified as MUPs include migrant farmworker communities, tribal communities and people experiencing homelessness. 

Medica’s Commitment

At Medica, enhancing health equity is so important, it’s become part of the way we think and the way we operate. We have established a Health Equity Committee, which has adopted the following statement: Medica is committed to health equity, which holds that no person be disadvantaged from achieving their potential, as a result of barriers. We consider the many characteristics that make people unique – such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, age, socioeconomic status, or veteran status – because any of these differences may be the basis for disparities in health care access, experience and outcomes. A three-year strategic plan has been developed to support this commitment.

Our new Health Equity Committee has representation from across the company. The principles and commitments, which guide our health equity work, align with four focus areas, which include Leadership and Decision Making, Data Practices, Policies and Procedures, and Access and Outcomes.

Meanwhile, part of the Medica Foundation’s mission is to improve the health of those in need by investing in community-led initiatives that advance health equity. Since 2003, the Foundation has granted nearly $32 million to help break down barriers to care, and to ensure that our work supports the vision of healthy communities free of inequities, where health resources, care, and treatment are accessible and available to all.

Quiz Answers:

1. C
2. A
3. B