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Physicians and health equity: Opportunities in practice

This 2013 report was written to support the Canadian Medical Association’s efforts to transform healthcare and help their members alleviate inequities in health status and improve the health of Canada’s most vulnerable populations.

This report draws upon 29 interviews with 32 physicians from across Canada. Interviewees identified areas of intervention for addressing health equity within their own practices. These included:

  • Linking patients with supportive community programs and services
  • Asking questions about a patient’s social and economic circumstances
  • Integrating considerations of social and economic conditions into treatment planning
  • Advocating for changes to support improvements in the social and economic circumstances of the community
  • Undertaking advocacy on behalf of individual patients
  • Adopting equitable practice design
  • Providing practical support to patients to access the federal and provincial/territorial programs for which they qualify

The physicians interviewed identified a number of barriers and facilitators to integrating health equity work in their practice setting.  Further, they suggested potential actions in five main areas of interest: clinical practice, advocacy and communications, education, compensation, and research. 

The report also includes examples of health equity work among Canadian physicians and provides tools and resources for physicians interested in addressing the determinants of health. 

Use this resource to

  • Learn about knowledge and service gaps identified by Canadian physicians and reflect on their implications for health equity and public health practice in Canada
  • Facilitate discussion about the role of physicians in advancing health equity
  • Reflect on the implications of health inequities and the determinants of health for the health care sector

Canadian Medical Association. (2013). Physicians and health equity: Opportunities in practice. Ottawa: Health Care Transformation in Canada.  Retrieved from:


Tags: Access to health services, Competencies & organizational standards, Leadership & capacity building, Report / Document