What Is Health Equity, and Why Does It Matter?

David R. Williams, PhD, MPH; Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health


Have trouble viewing this video? Read the transcript.

This is the first video in an 8-part series. Click here to watch the next video and learn why we haven’t made more progress on health equity.

Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:

  • Define health disparities or inequities.
  • Explain the disparity in breast cancer between white women and African-American women.
  • Discuss how health disparities relate to the concept of equal opportunity.

Description: David R. Williams, Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been researching health inequities in the United States for two decades. In this video, he sits down with Don Berwick, MD, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at IHI, to talk about health equity and why it’s important.

Watch the full conversation on YouTube.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Williams says that health inequities are those differences in health that are “unfair and unjust.” What examples of this does he give, and can you think of any other examples?
  2. Williams says that some differences in health are natural and to be expected. What are some examples of natural differences in health?
  3. What are some of the social conditions that may explain why black women suffer from breast cancer at an earlier age than white women?
  4. Williams talks about racial inequities, but he also says that disparities occur based on socioeconomic status and where you live. Why do you think this is the case?
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