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What Is Health Equity? And What Difference Does a Definition Make?

This report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aims to stimulate discussion and promote greater consensus about the meaning of health equity and the implications of acting on it. The goal of the report is to identify essential elements to guide effective action rather than to encourage all practitioners to use the same words to define health equity.

The report notes that definitions can matter and that, in the case of health equity, clarity is important, especially given that working towards equity is a struggle that must engage diverse stakeholders with varied agendas. Clarifying the meaning of health equity can bring actors a step closer to identifying and promoting policies and practices that are likely to reduce inequities.

What is health equity? includes a general definition of health equity, a definition that is relevant for measurement and short, audience-specific definitions. In addition, the report presents guiding principles for action to achieve health equity, examples of organizations advancing health equity and resources for further exploration and learning.

A brief version of the report can be found here.

Use this resource to

  • facilitate discussions on the meaning of health equity;
  • identify a process and principles to guide health equity action; and
  • generate actionable ideas to achieve health equity.


Braveman P, Arkin E, Orleans T, Proctor D, and Plough A.  (2017). What Is Health Equity? And What Difference Does a Definition Make? Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Tags: Public Health Organization, Report / Document