CanMEDS Health Advocate
Social Justice and Health Equity

Social Justice and Health Equity


But if you're asking my opinion, I would argue that a social justice approach should be central to medicine and utilized to be central to public health. This could be very simple: the well should take care of the sick.

-Dr. Paul Farmer, Partners in Health



A social justice and equity approach to health has been supported by many important leaders in health care.  The WHO Department of Ethics, Poverty, Trade and Human Rights defines health equity as: the absence of unfair and avoidable or remediable differences in health among population groups defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically.


In essence, health inequities are health differences which are socially produced, systematic in their distribution across the population, and unfair. For example, a child born in an urban slum who does not have access to clean water and becomes ill, this inequity in access to water is a social problem and not the fault of the child's.   With an equity approach to health, differences in health are viewed through a lens where social determinants are considered.   This approach may be more effective in the end in understanding the roots of illness and identifying solutions.