Health Equity

Overview

Health Equity is the intentional and continual process of changing policies, practices, systems, and structures to reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities in health and its determinants (including social determinants). This process requires valuing all individuals and populations equally, recognizing and rectifying historical injustices, and providing resources according to need.

graphic depiction of what health equity is


Health Equity is the confluence of diversity, equity, and inclusion with public health. It is the place where principles of social justice are realized in public health policies and practices. 


The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment’s Health Equity Practice is a dynamic collaborative. It brings together our staff, their colleagues throughout the City and community partners to work together in advancing health equity. Health equity must be a priority in policy, planning, services and investments. The Health Equity Practice works to align activities and investments, advise program-level efforts, and advocate for policies and practices across the City and County of Denver and beyond. These efforts advance the strategic goal of ensuring that everyone benefits from the best possible health.  

AlignFoster collaboration among teams in DDPHE and with other City departments to enhance communication and partnerships that incorporate and advance health equity. 

Advise: Support and inform activities that advance health equity through information, logistics assistance, training, data and other strategies. 

Advocate: Work in partnership with management and senior staff in DDPHE and other City departments, agencies and offices to support projects, programs and policies that advance health equity through the adoption of authentic, intentional and effective community involvement strategies.  


“Good health is a fundamental value shared by everyone who lives, works and plays in our city.  The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) has adopted health equity as a guiding principle.  To achieve health equity, we must reduce barriers to good health. The staff of DDPHE are committed to working with our partners in city government and the community to help Denver achieve its health equity goal: a city in which everyone has opportunities to be as healthy as possible regardless of race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation, or age.”

—Bob McDonald, Executive Director and Public Health Administrator


What is Health Equity?

Defining Health Equity

Equity is when everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from has the opportunity to thrive.
     — Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
      Metro Denver Partnership for Health

We recognize that persistent institutional biases and barriers create obstacles to health. These obstacles include economic insecurity, inadequate housing, unsatisfactory education, unreliable mobility, insufficient health care and services, and lack of healthy and safe living opportunities.  As a city, we advance equity for everyone within Denver’s communities. We do this by prioritizing the needs of individuals and families in a way that reduces or eliminates biases and barriers that keep people from living the healthiest possible lives. Biases and barriers may be based on race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation, age and other factors. 


Health Equity: Focusing on Health Outcomes & Health Disparities

Health is “the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.”
     — The World Health Organization

Health outcomes influence the state of a person’s health either for good or bad.  A combination of factors produces different health outcomes.  Bad outcomes include conditions such as heart disease, asthma and obesity that reduce the quality of a person's overall health.

Health disparities occur when some groups of people experience more illness and injury than others.  They occur in many groups and communities, including people with different attributes such as race, age, economic status and ability.

A health equity focus works to improve health outcomes and do away with health disparities.  This requires that we understand all the factors that result in differing and disparate outcomes.  

infographic showing the different health outcomes related to health equity   

Health Outcomes and Disparities Infographic(PDF, 589KB)

Some groups of people experience more illness and injury than others. These differences are called “health disparities.” Health disparities occur in many groups. These groups include people with different attributes such as race, age, economic status and ability.

One example of health disparity is the length of people’s lives. This is known as “life expectancy.” People living in adjacent Denver neighborhoods can have as much as a ten-year difference in life expectancy.

View the average life expectancy in Denver County 

Health disparities are in large part the result of conscious and deliberate policies designed to marginalize specific groups of people. Over time, these biases have become integrated into the fabric of our work and unintentionally maintain inequities and health outcome disparities. One example of these policies are "redlining" practices historically enacted to restrict home ownership in specific neighborhoods.

View the health equity and redlining data(PDF, 2MB)

Health Equity Practice

Health equity practice works to improve health outcomes and do away with health disparities. This requires that we understand all the factors that result in outcomes and disparities. The practice works to remove barriers to good health. It also requires that government agencies make the needs of communities that experience bad health outcomes and health disparities a priority.

For more information about health outcomes and health disparities please see the DDPHE Health Equity Presentation.(PDF, 3MB)


The Key Aspects of Health Equity Practice

light bulb iconLearning
Increase understanding of health equity and develop a common language about it internally, across agencies and among other partners and stakeholders.


connecting hands icon Collaboration
Work internally, with other agencies, and with external partners and stakeholders to integrate health equity in their work by providing expertise, technical support and resources.


group of people icon

Community
Identify opportunities and strategies to integrate community in projects and programs that advance health equity through intentional and authentic partnerships. 


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Data
Work with internal and external partners to identify, verify, collect and provide access to data that recognizes needs, prioritizes services and investments, and supports evaluation. 


Health Equity Tools and Resources

There are many excellent resources and tools to assist in understanding, creating and supporting health equity activities. These tools and resources have been developed, tested and used by leading organizations and agencies throughout the United States and beyond. DDPHE continuously reviews information on the web to identify the best resources. We have organized these tools and resources in topic areas to assist you in identifying those that might be helpful.

Health Equity Resources

General information about health equity and health equity practices including health equity organizations, guidance documents, curriculums and policy frameworks.


Assessment and Planning Tools

Health equity toolkits, assessments and other practical guidance documents.


Community & Health Equity

Information to support enhanced community engagement and participation in health equity efforts including strategies and guides. 


Programs, Projects & Policy

Examples and guidance documents for creating and adopting effective health equity policies and programs. 

Health Equity Data

Data plays a vital role in health equity efforts. Data helps identify health outcomes and health disparities. It supports the identification of contributing factors while defining their scope and scale by geography, population and other features. Data is also incorporated into planning strategies to improve equity and reduce disparities. It is also used to evaluate the results of those strategies.

“Ground truthing” the data, or establishing how data aligns with the specific situation as experienced by people, is a critical part of this work. We recognize that the way data is gathered and interpreted frequently is influenced by long-standing institutional and systemic biases. By recognizing and working to overcoming these biases, we improve the data and the overall results of health equity work.

This page presents a range of data that supports health equity work in Denver. It also provides examples of data that can be used in other jurisdictions to advance this work locally. We will continue to develop, examine, and share new data sources over time.

Denver Specific Data

Data products, summaries and downloadable maps related to health equity. 

DDPHE will update and release a new Health Equity Index in Q4 of 2023

Health Impact Assessments

A health impact assessment (HIA) is a planning tool that helps evaluate the potential health effects of a plan, project or policy before it is adopted, built or implemented. 

View the Health Impact Assessments

Community Health Assessment

Denver’s Community Health Assessment describes opportunities for improving health and what constitutes success in our communities. The Community Health Assessment is an ongoing evaluation of the health of our community that engages stakeholders and partners to identify opportunities for improving health in Denver. The assessment monitors priority health indicators and uses data to inform public health policies, processes, and interventions. It covers critical topics like healthy environments, housing, behavioral health, access to care, community connectedness, stress, and other health concerns.  

View the Community Health Assessment