Health Equity in Utah

Health Equity in Utah

Health is needed for functioning in every aspect of life. A prosperous economy needs healthy and productive individuals. The resources needed to be healthy include not only access to health care services but also health-promoting living and working conditions.

Health equity means that no one is denied the possibility to be healthy for belonging to a group that has historically been economically/socially disadvantaged. This includes socio-economic status, geographic location, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, ability, gender, and sexual orientation.

Health equity is not attained through a short-term effort, or by focusing exclusively on health and social services delivery at the individual level. To advance health equity we must also address barriers, develop an infrastructure to support long-term sustainability, and build meaningful accountability state-wide for health equity efforts and results. Achieving health equity involves a collective effort that only will be accomplished if all of us (communities, businesses, non-profits, faith-based, legislators, academia, and government) work together as One Utah.

To advance health equity and to keep enthusiastic about the work that we do, we must understand that it is possible to have successful programs and interventions while the health indicators at the population level get worse, while the health disparities increase.

There is a difference between program or agency outcomes and population outcomes. It is essential to create a system of understating and actions that will allow advancing health equity at the population level (population outcomes) and the contribution of programs and agencies (agency outcomes) to be treated as separate but connected efforts.

If Utah is successful at achieving health equity (population outcome), all people in the state will have the opportunities and resources needed to achieve their highest health potential, including not only access to health care but also health-promoting living and working conditions. Those opportunities and resources will be fairly distributed according to the needs of individuals and communities.

If DHHS is successful at achieving health equity (agency outcome), everyone in Utah will have fair, equitable, and culturally appropriate access to the public health, health care, and social services provided by this agency. This will include building the internal capacity of the DHHS to achieve that.

Role of OHE in this process

The Office of Health Equity will lead a transformative health equity practice within the DHHS, with the understanding that differences in opportunities and access to resources, are the root causes of health inequities. This transformative change is crucial to assure fair and equitable results in DHHS programs and services.The OHE will infuse in DHHS programs, the health equity mindset that we have been embracing and implementing for many years:
  • Be intentional, strategic, and open-minded about partnerships
  • Address health in context
  • Profoundly recognize and value lived experience
  • Foster capacity building
  • Operate with flexibility, adjust quickly, and advance in uncertainty
This mindset is foundational in building trust-based partnerships to effectively address health disparities while simultaneously building public health and social services system infrastructure and capacity focused on sharing power and advancing health equity.In addition to our internal work within the DHHS, OHE is also focused on:
  • Providing support and technical assistance to local health departments to build a public health infrastructure in Utah that will integrate health equity.
  • Coordinating efforts between public health and health care systems to optimize health equity interventions
  • Partnering with the community and with academia to make sure that health equity efforts are informed not only by quantitative data but also by the lived experience of communities
  • Supporting the creation of a solid and sustainable Community Health Workers workforce in Utah
  • Fostering collaborations with other state and local agencies and organizations, outside the health care and public health systems, to achieve the ultimate population outcome of health equity in Utah.

Health Equity Toolbox

Health Equity Glossary