Health Equity

Right now, health equity is a hot topic in health. The term itself demands attention and makes the speaker sound clever, but what is it and how do you do it? Unfortunately, health equity is not something you can download and receive step-by-step prompts to complete. There is no equity pokemon and that in itself says something about how people understand it. A basic Google search will tell you something like this:

“For the purposes of operationalisation and measurement, equity in health can be defined as the absence of systematic disparities in health (or in the major social determinants of health) between social groups who have different levels of underlying social advantage/disadvantage—that is, different positions in a social hierarchy “ (Braveman & Gruskin, 2003).

For the average person, that definition is about as helpful as a phone for fish. In typical fashion, what we have here is experts giving their deep, and obviously well researched, description of something. If it was helpful we could work with it, but it’s not – so we won’t. A working everyday definition  which I prefer is  “helping people get what they need when they need it, so they are well”.

So, how can you “do” health equity? Here are a few things you can do make sure you are getting the most out of your health providers (including clinical people like doctors and pharmacists):

1. If you need an inhaler you can request and purchase one from any pharmacist – this will cost you ($30-80), but it’s better than not having one (Asthma is life threatening so don’t wait).
2. You can ask to be seen by a specialist at a hospital – this is called a referral; you can inform your doctor that this is what you want and insist that they do this (quickly).
3. Your NHI number tracks everything that has happened to you, through this you can ask to see your records and review your notes. Your NHI is on your prescription, which is great because if you have had 20 prescriptions in a year, the next ones are free…
4. Check out the Prescription Subsidy Card. New Zealand is working hard on this kaupapa so we thought this link was important. Again, it’s not super easy to get into BUT it is worth a go.

And lastly, if you work in health it is even more important to get a working understanding of what health equity is. Find some time to read this framework: Equity of Health Care for Māori: A framework.

Suaree Borell