Health equity exists when individuals have equal opportunities to be healthy. The ability to be healthy is often associated with factors such as social position, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual identity, or disability. When these factors limit a person's ability to be healthy it can lead to health inequity.
Health inequities are caused by the uneven distribution of social determinants of health (SDOH). Social determinants include education, housing, and the neighborhood environment (e.g., sidewalks, parks), access to transportation, employment opportunities, the law and the justice systems, and health care and public health systems. SDOH affect a person's ability to earn a good living, live and work in a safe and healthy environment, and effectively use available resources including health care resources. Sometimes populations that represent a specific demographic feature (e.g., a particular racial or ethnic group) do not have equal access to quality education, housing, and other resources which can lead to greater sickness, and increased injuries and deaths.
In addition to conducting systematic reviews of intervention approaches that are designed to modify SDOH to reduce health inequities, CPSTF considers health equity across all systematic reviews, regardless of topic. To date, their work has focused on advancing health equity among racial and ethnic minority populations and populations with lower incomes.
In 2020, CPSTF took two steps to further their efforts. They selected SDOH as one of nine priority topics to guide their systematic reviews on population health interventions for 2020-2025, and they formed a Health Equity Committee to assess and advance their work in this area.