Equity is defined by the World Health Organization as the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people.
What is health equity?
The definition of health equity by the Ministry of Health is as follows:
"In Aotearoa New Zealand, people have differences in health that are not only avoidable but unfair and unjust. Equity recognises different people with different levels of advantage require different approaches and resources to get equitable health outcomes."
The concept acknowledges that not only are differences in health status unfair and unjust, but they are also the result of differential access to the resources necessary for people to lead healthy lives.
(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2018)
Progress in health equity
Within New Zealand, some gains have been made towards health equity over the past 20 years, such as equal or better immunisation rates for Māori children. However, as outlined in He korowai oranga Māori health strategy 2014, more work needs to be done to achieve health equity for Māori and for all New Zealanders. This work includes collaborating across sectors to make progress towards this goal. The same report notes that:
- Māori life expectancy is considerably lower than that for non-Māori
- mortality rates are also higher for Māori than for non-Māori at nearly all ages
- Māori health status remains unequal with non-Māori across almost all chronic and infectious diseases, as well as injuries, including suicide.
Strategies relating to the New Zealand health and disability sector
There are a number of strategies to help address equity in the New Zealand health and disability sector. These include the following:
- The New Zealand health strategy
- The New Zealand disability strategy
- United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Towards a non-disabling New Zealand
- Whāia te ao mārama – the Māori disability action plan for disability support services
- He korowai oranga – New Zealand’s Māori health strategy
- Equity of health care for Māori – a framework
- Faiva ora – national Pasifika disability plan
- ’Ala mo’ui – pathways to Pacific health and wellbeing 2014–2018
- The Asian health chart book 2006
The health system will have ongoing work over the next 10 years to help achieve health equity. This includes:
- continuing to develop good quality ethnicity data to measure and report on health status
- continuing to build the evidence to inform the knowledge base for Māori health
- working outside the health and disability sector from time to time.
Equity Ministry of Health, NZ
Achieving equity Ministry of Health, NZ
Health equity links Health Quality & Safety Commission, NZ
Why cultural safety rather than cultural competency is required to achieve health equity: a literature review and recommended definition Int J Equity Health, 2019
Achieving health equity in Aotearoa New Zealand – the contribution of medicines optimisation Journal of Primary Health Care, RNZCGP, 2018
Came H, O'Sullivan D, Kidd J, McCreanor T. The Waitangi Tribunal’s WAI 2575 report: Implications for decolonizing health systems Health and Human Rights Journal. 2020 Jun; 22(1).
- Equity Ministry of Health, NZ
- Achieving equity Ministry of Health, NZ
- Health equity links Health Quality & Safety Commission, NZ
- Achieving health equity in Aotearoa – strengthening responsiveness to Māori in health research NZ Medical Journal, 2017