Health Equity Glossary

This condensed version of terms provides a starting place for understanding key concepts in public health. They were selected from University of Washington’s School of Public Health’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Glossary and Nevada Public Health Training’s Health in All Policies Glossary.

    Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or emotional ability that contribute to a system of oppression; usually of able‐bodied/minded persons against people with illness, disabilities or less developed skills.
    The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with physical disabilities, such as self-opening doors, elevators for upper levels, or raised lettering on signs.
    Cultural blindness
    is the proceeding as if differences do not exist.
    Cultural Competence
    To have cultural competence is to understand society and strategies that acknowledge and respect people from diverse backgrounds.
    Cultural Humility
    is having respect for and understanding the importance of another’s values, beliefs, and identities.
    refers to differential treatment due to minority status, actual and perceived.
    is the process of enabling people/communities to take control over their lives and environments for the purpose of increasing community, policy change, increased resources, reduced inequities.
    is the condition under which every individual is treated in the same way, and is granted same rights and responsibilities, regardless of their individual differences.
    ensures that individuals are provided the resources they need to have access to the same opportunities, as the general population. While equity represents impartiality, i.e., the distribution is made in such a way to even opportunities for all the people. Conversely equality indicates uniformity, where everything is evenly distributed among people.
    refers to an Inability to accept a worldview that is not your own.
    Gender identity
    The various ways that people present their gender to society, such as clothing, grooming, mannerisms, and speech patterns. Gender expression alone is not indicative of a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
    Gender vs Sex
    A person’s self-identity ranging from male to female, regardless of their biological characteristics. Sex generally refers to biological characteristics that define men and women, such as women having breasts, men having a penis.
    Health disparities
    are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.
    Health Equity
    Attainment of the highest level of health for all people.
    Health in All Policies
    is a collaborative approach that integrates and articulates health considerations into policymaking across sectors to improve the health of all communities and people. HiAP recognizes that health is created by a multitude of factors beyond healthcare and, in many cases, beyond the scope of traditional public health activities (Social Determinants of Health).
    Impact evaluation
    assesses the changes that can be attributed to a particular intervention, such as a project, program or policy, both the intended ones, as well as ideally the unintended ones.
    Implicit Bias
    Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold; also known as unconscious or hidden bias. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to be favored above individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that people may profess.
    Institutional racism
    refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.
    The idea that various biological, social, and cultural categories-- including gender, race, class, ethnicity and social categories-- interact and contribute towards systematic social inequality. This concept recognizes that individuals: 1) belong to more than one social category simultaneously and 2) may experience either privileges or disadvantages on that basis depending on circumstances and relationships.
    Intersectoral Collaboration
    refers to collaboration across different types of sectors, including those that are non-traditional (non-public health related). There are three approaches: Opportunistic, focusing on identifying issues, policies, or relationships that can potentially provide early success for all partners; issue, focusing on identifying policies that have a major impact on specific public health priorities, such as violence prevention, decreasing food insecurity, or reducing poverty; and sector, which emphasizes one specific policy area that has a large health impact, such as transportation or agriculture.
    Unearned social power (set of advantages, entitlements, and benefits) accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to the members of a dominant group (e.g., white/Caucasian people with respect to people of color, men with respect to women, heterosexuals with respect to homosexuals, adults with respect to children, and rich people with respect to poor people). Privilege tends to be invisible to those who possess it, because its absence (lack of privilege) is what calls attention to it. In other words, men are less likely to notice/acknowledge a difference in advantage because they do not live the life of a woman; white people are less likely to notice/acknowledge racism because they do not live the life of a person of color; straight people are less likely to notice/acknowledge heterosexism because they do not live the life of a gay/lesbian/bisexual person.
    Root causes
    A root cause is an initiating cause of either a condition or a causal chain that leads to an outcome or effect of interest. The term refers to the earliest, most basic cause for a given behavior.
    Scientific Racism
    The use of scientific techniques, theories, and hypotheses to sanction the belief of racial superiority, inferiority, or racism.  Examples include Tuskegee Syphilis Trial, the stem cells of Henrietta Lacks, Indigenous Races of the Earth, etc.
    Structural Racism/Systemic Racism
    The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.
    The Social Determinants of Health (SDoH)
    are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.
    Having a gender identity that is different from one’s assigned sex at birth.
    refers to examining health influences through the Social Determinants of Health – in terms of prevention rather than reaction.
    Wicked Problems or Issues
    A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve, often due to the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. Examples include obesity, poverty, and domestic violence.