Health equity refers to the study and causes of differences in the quality of health and healthcare across different populations. Health equity is different from health equality, as it refers only to the absence of disparities in controllable or remediable aspects of health. It is not possible to work towards complete equality in health, as there are some factors of health that are beyond human influence. Inequity implies some kind of social injustice. Thus, if one population dies younger than another because of genetic differences, a non-remediable/controllable factor, we tend to say that there is a health inequality. On the other hand, if a population has a lower life expectancy due to lack of access to medications, the situation would be classified as a health inequity. These inequities may include differences in the “presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to health care” between populations with a different race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
Health equity falls into two major categories: horizontal equity, the equal treatment of individuals or groups in the same circumstances; and vertical equity, the principle that individuals who are unequal should be treated differently according to their level of need. Disparities in the quality of health across populations are well-documented globally in both developed and developing nations. The importance of equitable access to healthcare has been cited as crucial to achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals.