Health Equity: A Public Health Essential



How healthy we are when we are born, how likely we are to get sick as we age, and how long we can expect to live are all determined to a surprising extent by our place in society. Disparities in health among income, racial, and ethnic groups in the U.S. are significant and, by many measures, expanding. This course serves as a primer for illustrating the root causes that shape health and health disparities. In addition to describing the complex interplay of social conditions associated with health disparities, it also provides a framework for exploring public and community health frameworks for addressing health equity.

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe terms related to health equity.
  • Identify how historically major advances in health status resulted from broad-based social reforms.
  • Identify the health outcomes of affected populations.
  • Describe the social determinants of health and how they contribute to health disparities and inequities.
  • Describe the Healthy People 2020 approaches to address health inequity.
  • Illustrate the role of the public health workforce in addressing health inequity.
  • Describe evidenced-based approaches to addressing health equity

Please review the Technical Requirements below before beginning this course.

Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals

  • 2A1. Gathers information relevant to specific public health policy issues.
  • 2B1. Analyzes information relevant to specific public health policy issues.
  • 4A2. Recognizes the role of cultural, social, and behavioral factors in the accessibility, availability, acceptability and delivery of public health services.
  • 5A1. Recognizes community linkages and relationships among multiple factors (or determinants) affecting health of populations.
  • 5A9. Gathers input from the community to inform the development of public health policy and programs.
  • 6C2. Explains lessons to be learned from prominent events in the history in comparison to the current events of the public health profession


Originally launched November 2012

Estimated Time to Complete

1.5 hours


Free and open to the public.

Technical Requirements

A modern web browser such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer 10, or Mozilla Firefox is required to view the pages. PLEASE NOTE: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 will not function properly; if used, you will be unable to finish the course. If you have Internet Explorer 9, please work with your IT staff to obtain Internet Explorer 10 or another web browser. The Flash player plug-in is also required.

The planners and course authors have no financial arrangements or affiliations with any commercial entities whose products, research or services may be discussed in this activity. No commercial support has been accepted for this activity.

Employed by or in New York State?

If you are employed by NYS or a local health department in NYS, we recommend that you enroll for this course through the NYS Department of Health Learning Management System (DOH LMS).