Background on Health Equity

Learn more about health equity and how it relates to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s mission.

About this Data Story

This section is intended to provide some foundational knowledge to the health equity topics covered in this report. We encourage readers to consult the resources/references throughout the report for more extensive understanding of specific public health topics.

The mission of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is to prevent illness, injury, and premature death, to assure access to high quality public health and health care services, and to promote wellness and health equity for all people in the Commonwealth. Disparities in health outcomes are linked with socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, history, and other social characteristics1. Understanding how the social, geographic and economic factors shape health is necessary to identify areas for intervention and meet the needs of Massachusetts residents. Adapted from the 2017 Massachusetts State Health Assessment.

Public Health Framework for Reducing Inequities

Process diagram that illustrated a health equity framework created by the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative.
​​​​​​Framework from Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative

CDC Health Impact Pyramid

Pyramid that shows the various factors that influence health outcomes.
From Health Impact in 5 years

Key Terms

What is health equality?

Everyone is given the same health intervention without consideration of underlying needs.

What are health disparities?

Disparities are significant differences in health outcomes between populations.

What are health inequities?

Inequities are the unjust distribution of resources and power between populations which manifests in disparities.

What is health equity?

Everyone has what they need to attain their highest level of health.

Additional Information and Footnotes

Hispanic is used to reflect current data collection practices. We acknowledge this may not be the preferred term. Throughout this report, NH refers to Non-Hispanic. People of color refers to individuals identifying as Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Other. Unless otherwise noted, adults are ages 18+. Data are most recently available for the specified data source.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC health disparities and inequalities report: United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(3), 1-187. Retrieved from

Additional Resources

Contact   for Background on Health Equity


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