Is Health Equity the same as Health Equality?

Director’s Blog, by Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam

Is health equity the same as health equality? Health inequities pertain to differences in health outcomes and their risk factors between social groups that are, simply put, not right. It is important to note, however, that this problem can be solved.

When we refer to the term equality, the different social groups are given equal treatment. While at face value this may seem fair, underserved groups may need more support or resources in order to achieve the same health outcomes as more advantaged groups. Imagine that an individual has type I diabetes, where the pancreas does not produce insulin, whereas another individual has Type II diabetes where there is insulin resistance. Now, assume that both are given metformin, which is typically used to manage Type II diabetes, while Type I diabetes typically needs an insulin shot. That is equal treatment, but the Type I diabetic will not have the same health outcome. Equity, in this particular instance, is providing the appropriate treatment so both individuals achieve similar outcomes.