Health disparity is a particular type of health difference that should not exist in the population. Disparities are closely linked with social or economic disadvantage, and with lack of accessible, timely, quality health care. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, mental health, cognitive, sensory or physical disability, sexual orientation, geographic location, or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further information at: http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/Topic/HealthDisparities.html.
Health equity is the absence of systematic disparities in health (or determinants of health) between population groups in a social hierarchy or with different levels of social advantage or disadvantage. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Plan for Action to End Health Disparities defines health equity as “the attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.
Health inequity is a difference or disparity in health status that is systematic, avoidable and unjust. Health inequity and health disparity are frequently used interchangeably.