Mission: Why health inequities?

It is BARHII's mission to transform public health practice for the purpose of eliminating health inequities using a broad spectrum of approaches that create healthy communities.

A great deal of thought and discussion went into that statement. First, we knew we could not simply say we are going to eliminate health inequities, because we know that their origins are in the structure of social inequalities and are beyond what public health departments can change on our own; however, it is within the ability of health departments to transform our practice in order to be more effective partners with communities and other allies, and to be able to make more significant contributions than we are now.

Second, we discussed the difference between health disparities, a term more commonly used in the United States, and health inequities, a term more common in Canada, Europe and global health agencies such as the World Health Organization. As the term health disparities is used in the United States, it implies mere difference, and often refers to differential disease rates among specific populations. By default if not design, the solution is often determined to be more targeted health care or health education outreach to those populations for those specific diseases. Health inequities, on the other hand, suggest origins in larger patterns of social inequality, which is where we concluded we needed to focus our attention if we are to make more substantial inroads than our largely categorical programs have achieved thus far. On this matter, we join our global colleagues in how we choose to frame the issue.

Finally, we concluded that we want to use a wide variety of approaches that create healthy communities. Just as the Institute of Medicine report on The Future of Public Health defined the mission of public health as "...assuring the conditions in which people can be healthy," rather than referring to populations or diseases, so too did we conclude that the conditions in neighborhoods and communities (which are not always defined by place), and all the factors that define those conditions, are our legitimate target. Our practice and our partnerships are guided by that goal.

Click here to read BARHII's statement of perspective