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Public health leadership to advance health equity: A scoping review and metasummary

This research responds to the challenge that little consensus and evidence are available about factors that support public health leaders to effectively advance health equity. It was initiated by Betker as part of her work as a Senior Knowledge Translation Specialist at the National Collaborating Centre for the Determinants of Health. The dissertation is comprised of a scoping literature review, a survey of public health leaders to validate and deepen findings, and a metasummary of the most relevant literature that includes thematic analysis and data visualizations.

Betker’s analysis found that three aspects are essential for public health leaders to advance health equity: 1) leadership occurs simultaneously at the organizational, community and societal level; 2) the leader bridges between community and her/his organization and functions ‘in between’ spaces; and 3) leadership is grounded in a specific set of values (equity, social justice, solidarity).

Sections regarding findings and discussion will be of most use to practitioners. Readers will find:

  • summary descriptions of the key concepts of health equity, social determinants of health, public health, leadership;
  • attributes of leaders and analysis of relational skills/practices and types of knowledge required by public health leaders who seek to advance health equity;
  • distinguishing characteristics between leadership and management, ways of developing leadership, and how to apply leadership theory to public health, especially drawing upon very limited research about health equity as a driver or result of public health leadership;
  • descriptions of tools, strategies and mechanisms that contribute to public health leadership development; and
  • recommendations for further research to address gaps uncovered or confirmed by her research.

Use this resource to:

  • ​Understand leadership capacities and requirements to advance health equity.
  • Plan organizational and professional development.
  • Consider and plan one’s personal knowledge, skill and career path.


Betker, R.C. (2016). Public health leadership to advance health equity: A scoping review and metasummary (Doctoral dissertation). University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Retrieved from:

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Tags: Leadership & capacity building

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