May 12 – 18 is National Women’s Health Week

Health Care Observations and Equity

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1991 created the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) with the goal of improving the health of American women “…by advancing and coordinating a comprehensive women’s health agenda.”[1]

OWH works on multiple fronts to identify and prioritize emergent health issues facing women and supports programs and policies related to health disparities.[2]

Health disparities, which are rooted in health care inequity, are particularly important.

Health Equity and Inequity Defined

Health inequity is defined by WHO as, …systematic differences in the health status of different population groups. These inequities have significant social and economic costs both to individuals and societies. The lower an individual’s socio-economic position, the higher their risk of poor health.”

Conversely, health equity is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as, “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health”.[1] Addressing health equity requires understanding and mitigating factors disproportionately and adversely impacting an individual’s and community’s health and well-being. Social determinants of health (SDoH)” — the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life [e.g. economic, social, and political policies, norms, and systems][2]—are the non-medical factors profoundly influencing an individual’s health outcomes, access to health care resources, and well-being.[3]

Along those lines, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s study, Women’s Experiences with Provider Communication and Interactions in Health Care Settings: Findings from the 2022 KFF Women’s Health Survey:

“Women’s health outcomes are shaped not only by access to care, health insurance, and affordability, but also by the social and economic factors that drive health, discrimination, and experiences within the health care system, which have become a larger focus in providing equitable health care in recent years. One of the Institute of Medicine’s six domains of healthcare quality is patient-centered care: providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”