Decoding “Health Equity” – How Schools Can Make a Difference

Decoding �Health Equity� � How Schools Can Make a Difference
Posted on 02/08/2019

In the health field and academic world, “health equity” has become a huge buzzword. Most people have a vague sense of what the term means, but it can be difficult to put it into context of their day-to-day lives. It is even more unclear on how schools can play a role in promoting health equity in their community.

So, let’s take a step back and first establish a definition for “health equity”. According to the Health Equity Institute, it means the “attainment of the highest level of health for all people”. Every person should have the same opportunities to lead a healthy life, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, zip code, or any other factor. Health equity is a vision of a world in which all barriers to health have been eliminated from the places we live, learn, work and play.

Now, let’s explore how schools are involved in creating an environment where all students have what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Keep in mind, being healthy is not just about individual choices such as eating right and exercising – there are social determinants of health, too. For example, a student may not have the same access to fresh fruits and vegetables because he/she avoids the lunchroom due to bullying. Another student may not participate fully in physical activity opportunities because of a language barrier. The physical environment around the school (i.e. walking paths, street safety) can impact absenteeism and tardiness, as some families don’t have equal access to transportation. 

The Farmington School District is part of a growing movement to advance health equity within schools and their surrounding communities. The aim of this work is to dedicate more attention to the students who are at higher risk due to social determinants and conditions. This involves identifying students that face barriers to health, by creating spaces for open dialogue among students, parents, and educators (i.e. focus groups, wellness meetings, safety forums). These assessments will shed light on how to improve the school environment and policies to better support all students in achieving optimal health.

Wondering how to get students involved in the movement? Here is an amazing opportunity for students of all ages to showcase their artistic skills and increase awareness of health equity:    Young Leaders Visualize Health Equity a Nationwide Art Project

For more reading on health equity and social determinants of health, click the links below:


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 Supported by the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, Minnesota Department of Health and Dakota County Public Health Department.