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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: More Emphasis on Equity Needed in State Health Departments

A survey of state chronic disease practitioners found that while many were committed to health equity in theory, few believed it was part of their job, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Ross Brownson]

Researchers surveyed 537 state practitioners about their views on health equity, the principle that all people should achieve their full health potential regardless of social position or circumstance. Just 11 percent agreed that health equity fell within their purview and 2 percent identified it as their primary focus.

The authors said one reason for the low numbers may be that equity is “siloed” in state health departments, which may designate a particular office to handle equity. The study recommends departments find ways to collaborate among offices or merge priorities to build in equity as a department-wide priority.

“Chronic disease prevention practitioners have critical roles to play in advancing health equity,” wrote the study’s senior author, Dr. Ross Brownson, Bernard Becker Professor and director of the Prevention Research Center at the Brown School.  “Instituting policies that make health equity the work of all public health practitioners and equipping those practitioners with the knowledge, skills and resources needed will expedite progress.”

Ms. Karishma Furtado, a PhD student at the Brown School, was the lead author of the paper, which was published in the January issue of Health Affairs.

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