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Policy Approaches to Advancing Health Equity

Hall, Mary MPH; Graffunder, Corinne DrPH, MPH; Metzler, Marilyn MPH, RN

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: January/February 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue - p S50–S59
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000365
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Public health policy approaches have demonstrated measurable improvements in population health. Yet, “one-size-fits-all” approaches do not necessarily impact all populations equally and, in some cases, can widen existing disparities. It has been argued that interventions, including policy interventions, can have the greatest impact when they target the social determinants of health. The intent of this article was to describe how selected current policies and policy areas that have a health equity orientation are being used with the aim of reducing health disparities and to illustrate contemporary approaches that can be applied broadly to a variety of program areas to advance health equity. Applying a health equity lens to a Health in All Policies approach is described as a means to develop policies across sectors with the explicit goal of improving health for all while reducing health inequities. Health equity impact assessment is described as a tool that can be effective in prospectively building health equity into policy planning. The discussion suggests that eliminating health inequities will benefit from a deliberate focus on health equity by public health agencies working with other sectors that impact health outcomes.

This article describes selected current policies and policy areas with a health equity orientation that are being used to reduce health disparities and illustrates contemporary approaches that can be applied to various program areas to advance health equity.

Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (Ms Hall), Office of the Associate Director for Policy (Dr Graffunder), and National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Ms Metzler), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.

Correspondence: Mary Hall, MPH, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, Office of the Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Mailstop K77, Atlanta, GA 30333 (moh4@cdc.gov).

The authors acknowledge the contributions of Ms Ashley Borda, who conducted literature reviews contributing to this article.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.