What is the future of health equity? The answer lies in a burgeoning field called explicit health equity research. This field examines racial and economic disparities in health outcomes across the life-course. Previously, researchers focused on documenting differences in health outcomes between different groups. Now, however, they can point to more scientific evidence for why health disparities persist. One growing body of research indicates that people of color and people who come from unstable homes are biologically older than their chronological age.
The Institute of Medicine released a report called The Future of Health Equity in the 21st Century in which it posited that “multiple determinants of health are important.” This ecological model includes individual biology, social and environmental conditions. The Institute of Medicine also charged a committee to study community-based solutions and formulated a model to illustrate three key elements of community-based efforts to address health inequity. In the report, the Institute’s ecological model showed that “a culture of health can be built” when people are engaged in their local community.
The future of health equity research is highly complex, and it may take decades before its effects are known. For example, research on health equity must follow people for decades to accurately measure the impact of poverty, discrimination, and other factors on health. Consequently, randomized trials are expensive and difficult to conduct. In addition, randomized studies are rarely done well. New research must address these challenges, but it will require a cultural shift. But it is a worthy goal that can help the future of health equity.
The future of health equity in America has a bright outlook. With the growing diversity of the U.S. population, the need for equitable healthcare for all people is critical. It is necessary to address health inequity, and the report highlights creative solutions that address this goal. Inequity is the cause of health challenges facing Black Americans. For instance, Black Americans are twice as likely to be uninsured as non-Hispanic whites.
Towards a better health system, the goal of health equity research should be prioritized and implemented. For instance, advancing health equity requires that we focus on reducing inequities, focusing on prevention and treatment. In a recent conference, the President’s Challenge for advancing health equity was discussed. Additionally, many states have created statewide offices of health equity. These offices collaborate with other agencies and inform policies promoting health equity. Further, health equity has been the target of large philanthropies.
As health equity research continues, it must be mindful of the sociocultural and economic landscapes that shape the health of people across the globe. While overall childhood obesity rates are on the decline, they are rising for children of low-education parents. By defining health equity with an emphasis on equity, researchers can better evaluate which interventions work best for disadvantaged populations. For example, public education campaigns on safe sleep have reduced the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, yet widened the gap between lower-income families and higher-income families.