Health Equity

Better understanding and responding to disproportionate outcomes in community health and wellness.

Why this is important:

  • Health equity "is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many racial and ethnic [minoritized] groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19" (CDC, 2020).
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light on and exacerbating health inequities that have long existed in our country. Racially minoritized folks who get COVID-19  are more likely to get more ill due to a higher prevalence of chronic illness due to systemic racism, injustices, and oppression which lead to underlying health causes that leave folks more susceptible to illness and death (Wallis, 2020). 
  • Studies have shown that exposure to racism and discrimination negatively affects a person’s health. Systematically, racism filters into all pieces of the ecosystem, including all aspects in life, and this sets Blacks and other racially minoritized groups up to receive worse care across almost all medical interventions. These disparities in care persist regardless of education, job status, and quality of health insurance (Martin, 2017).

Important definitions to help understand this issue area:

  • Social Determinants of Health: Healthy People 2020 define social determinants of health as "conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks...Understanding the relationship between how population groups experience “place” and the impact of “place” on health is fundamental to the social determinants of health—including both social and physical determinants" (Healthy People, 2020).
  • Social Determinants of Equity: From Braverman et al. "The social determinants of equity differ from the social determinants of health. While the social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, the social determinants of equity are systems of power. If the social determinants of health are the contexts in which individual behaviors arise and convey risk, the social determinants of equity determine the range of contexts available and who is found in which context" (Braverman et. al, 2011).  
  • White Supremacy and Health Equity: White Supremacy is defined by Layla F. Saad in her book, Me and White Supremacy as, “a racist ideology that is based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and that therefore, white people should be dominant over other races. White supremacy is not just an attitude or a way of thinking. It also extends to how systems and institutions are structured to uphold white dominance” (2020, p.12). White supremacy rears its head in our health system in many ways, one example is seen in studies that show a common belief for medical trainees is that Black folks have a higher tolerance for pain than White folks, leading to racial disparities as to how pain is treated and responded to for Black patients (Akinlade, 2020).   

Drives, Donations, and DIY

(mask)MAKERS PGH: The ongoing need for masks remains; support the project by learning how to make and donate mask.

Operation Facemask PGH: Request a mask for an adult or child, or make a donation to support shipping them to those in need.

Vitalant Community Blood Drives: Donate blood at one of 10 area donation centers, as well as two drives scheduled for Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 and Thursday, October 22, 2020.


Akinlade, O. (2020). Taking Black Pain Seriously. New England Journal of Medicine, 383(10). doi:10.1056/nejmpv2024759

Braveman, P. A., Kumanyika, S., Fielding, J., Laveist, T., Borrell, L. N., Manderscheid, R., & Troutman, A. (2011). Health Disparities and Health Equity: The Issue Is Justice. American Journal of Public Health, 101(S1). doi:10.2105/ajph.2010.300062

Health Equity. (2020, July 24). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from

Healthy People. (2020). Social Determinants of Health. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from

Saad, L. F. (2020). Me and white supremacy: Combat racism, change the world, and become a good ancestor. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.

Wallis, C. (2020, August 20). Why Some People Get Terribly Sick from COVID-19. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from

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