Health equity is when all people (individuals, groups and communities) have a fair chance at reaching their full health potential and are not disadvantaged by social, economic and environmental conditions.
Public Health is engaged at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to influence factors in our society that impact health. We work closely with community partners to research and study the whole population to understand patterns of health and the factors that impact it. We are then able to focus on research, policy changes and developing new programs and interventions to make big impacts at the local level.
Image © 2017, Saskatchewan Health Authority
Image caption: three people of varying heights are trying to pick apples from a tree. If they all get a box to stand on, it’s equality but the two shorter individuals still cannot reach the tree. On the other hand, if each person gets the number of boxes to stand on that they need to reach the tree (whether it’s 1 for the tallest person or 3 for the shortest person), it’s equity.
Social determinants of health
Our health is largely shaped by where we live, work and play. These conditions impact our overall health. Individuals, communities and populations may experience these factors differently based on social or economic conditions, putting some at a disadvantage and greater susceptibility to poor health outcomes. Reducing the negative impact of social determinants that contribute to health inequities is fundamental to the work of public health. The main determinants of health include:
- Access to health services
- Biology and genetic endowment
- Childhood experiences
- Education and literacy
- Employment and working conditions
- Food insecurity
- Healthy behaviours
- Income and social status
- Physical environments
- Social supports and coping skills
Some of the ways we’re working ‘upstream’ to influence the social determinants of health and give everyone the opportunities they need to be healthy include:
- Including Health Equity as one of our Strategic Directions for 2016-2020
- Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination
- Headwaters Food & Farming Alliance
- Bridges Out of Poverty
- DC Moves
Bridges Out of Poverty
Influencing the way individuals think about poverty is key to creating positive change in the community. As part of a community initiative, we adopted a strategy made popular in the Sarnia region of Ontario for mobilizing community change, the Bridges Out of Poverty framework.
The objective of the framework is to look at poverty through an economic lens while exploring other circumstances that contribute to poverty that an individual has no control over. The framework is built on the proven concept that everyone in the community has a role to play in poverty reduction.
Since 2013, we have provided training to more than 40 organizations from various community sectors throughout Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph.
We offer Bridges training to anyone interested in learning more about the social and economic impact that poverty has on individuals and our community. Locally, we have already spoken with over 10,000 individuals in the private and public sectors including business, members of the health field, schools and faith-based organizations.