Public health leadership for action on health equity: A literature review
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This document is part of the 'Leadership for Health Equity' Series
In 2016, Dr. Claire Betker completed a scoping review and metasummary on public health leadership for action on health equity as a PhD dissertation research project. The dissertation included a comprehensive literature review, which revealed that there is very little theoretical and empirical literature examining public health leadership to take action on health inequities. The lack of literature makes the definition, development and support of leadership in this area very challenging.
This summary highlights key concepts from the general leadership literature that are transferrable to public health action on health equity, including:
- elements and theories of leadership;
- distinguishing followers and leaders;
- differentiating leadership and management; and
- considering leadership at multiple levels of the health system.
Key learnings from the literature are explored, such as the empowerment of leaders at multiple levels, relational aspects of leadership, the use of data to demonstrate inequities and the interdependence of leaders and followers. Research gaps and areas for further development highlight opportunities to enrich the field of public health leadership to address inequities.
Use this resource to
- discuss the relationship between management and leadership, and between leaders and followers;
- explore opportunities to develop leadership knowledge and skills at multiple levels of the public health system;
- identify research projects that consider elements of public health leadership that specifically aim to advance health equity; and
- consider leadership development within the community, organizations and civil society in partnership with public health.
Also in this series:
- Case Study: Leadership for health equity: Working intersectorally and engaging the community in Western Health (2014)
- Case Study: Fostering health through healing: engaging the community to create a poverty reduction strategy in Nunavut (2014)
- Case Study: Alberta Health Services: Establishing a province-wide social determinants of health and health equity approach (2013)
- Case Study: Making the case for health equity: Winnipeg’s experience (2012)
- Case Study: Improving health equity in Saskatoon: From data to action (2012)
- Case Study: Empower the community: New Brunswick’s approach to overcoming poverty (2012)
- Case Study: Capitalizing on change: Building leadership competency in public health in Quebec (2012)
Betker, RC and the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (2018). Public health leadership for action on health equity: A literature review. Antigonish, NS: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, St. Francis Xavier University.