When everyone in the community has the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to achieve and maintain good health and wellbeing we will have health equity. It is having the right services provided in the right ways and in the right places.

This is achieved by removing unfair and avoidable barriers that compromise health and wellbeing and by supporting fair access, fair chances and fair resource distribution to alleviate any disadvantage experienced by some people. Priority population groups at risk of poor health include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people  and people who are:

  • socio-economically disadvantaged
  • living in rural or remote areas
  • living with a mental illness, physical or intellectual disability
  • living with the effects of abuse or neglect as a child
  • affected by discrimination, social exclusion, incarceration
  • from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly refugees and survivors of torture and trauma.

An equitable approach in health promotion will:

  • Prioritise at-risk groups and those most in need and ensure access to services.
  • Focus health promotion activities on the social determinants of health.
  • Use community participation to strengthen all aspects of that community. (see Engaging People)
  • Advocate to reduce social inequities to ensure every individual, family and community group may enjoy living, learning and working in a health-supporting environment.
  • Work in partnership with other organisations.

Note: Health equity is not the same as health equality. Health equality, or sameness, does not exist − we do not and cannot have the same experience of health and wellbeing. This is because we are subject to vast individual differences, including biological factors such as genetics, sex and age.

Health inequities are avoidable. They result from decisions that are out of the general public's control, such as unfair policy, legislation, welfare and healthcare funding allocation.

Poverty, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity all contribute significantly to inequities in health and in access to healthcare services. For example, in Australia, there is a gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians because of the social disadvantage experienced by Indigenous people.

Men and women have different health needs, so health service providers need to consider gender when planning for service delivery. For example, are our waiting rooms friendly and welcoming to men, women and gender diverse people?

Image illustrating the difference between equality and equity