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Glossary of health equity concepts for public health action in the Canadian context
  1. Dianne Oickle,
  2. Connie Clement
  1. National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dianne Oickle, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5, Canada; doickle{at}


Despite increased interest in addressing health equity through public health initiatives, practitioner and decision maker comprehension of core concepts is limited and inconsistent. Absence of a shared understanding of equity and related terminology contributes to lack of coordinated solutions as practitioners focus on individual level issues, unrelated to social justice. Taking action to decrease population health inequities requires a comprehension of where inequities are rooted, who is affected and interventions that consider the complexity of inequities being addressed. Public health decision making would be strengthened with greater common understanding of health equity concepts and terminology as an initial step to collaborative action. This glossary defines key concepts related to health equity in public health practice as well as broad-level approaches for taking action on health inequities at a population health level. Exploring terminology in this way supports going beyond individual practitioner responsibility and shifts towards organisational accountability for action.

  • health equity
  • health inequalities
  • public health
  • social factors

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  • Funding The National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH), hosted by St. Francis Xavier University, is one of six National Collaborating Centres (NCCs) for Public Health in Canada. Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the NCCs produce information to help public health professionals improve their response to public health threats, chronic disease and injury, infectious diseases and health inequities. The NCCDH focuses on the social and economic factors that influence the health of Canadians and applying knowledge to influence interrelated determinants and advance health equity through public health practice, policies and programs. Find out more at The other centres address aboriginal health, environmental health, healthy public policy, infectious disease and methods and tools. Find out more about all NCCs at

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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