The role of local public health in advancing health equity
The work to advance health equity is in direct line with the history of local health departments acting as a key force with their communities to shape the conditions for population health.
While advancing health equity may seem daunting, local health departments have an important role to play in it. Indeed, it is an extension of the role or roles they already play: community convener, policy advocate or even chief health strategist.
What public health can do to advance health equity is grounded in the historical roots of public health and in the ten essential public health services. Local health departments have a long history of looking "upstream" to identify the root causes of poor health and informing, engaging and activating the community to address those causes. Local health departments use data to monitor health status, engage with the community to develop solutions and take action, and work with a wide range of partners to create policies and plans that ensure the health of all.
What is health equity?
Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain their health potential, and no one is unjustly kept from achieving this potential.
Health disparities in Minnesota are significant, persistent, and cannot be explained by biological or genetic factors. They are more than differences: they are inequities that are life-threatening and urgent.
Looking at the kinds of things that shape health in Minnesota—a good education, opportunities for work, safe places to live and play—it becomes apparent that many kinds of inequities, or differences in these opportunities to be healthy, lead to health disparities.
Making the changes necessary to shape these conditions of daily life in such a way that every person in Minnesota has the opportunity to be healthy: this is the work of advancing health equity.