Equity is the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among populations or groups defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically; thus, health inequities involve more than inequality—-whether in health determinants or outcomes, or in access to the resources needed to improve and maintain health—-but also a failure to avoid or overcome such inequality that infringes human rights norms or is otherwise unfair.
WHO has embraced the elimination of health inequities as an important target and supports the dual goals of equity and efficiency for health services. Reducing health inequities is important because health is a fundamental human right and its progressive realization will eliminate those inequalities in the opportunity to enjoy life and pursue one's life plans that result from differences in health status (i.e., diseases, disabilities, etc.) and that in turn exacerbate these differences.
WHO's data-gathering on inequalities in health status and access to services is shaped by and in turn informs its advocacy and normative activities that aim to reduce health inequities. Besides collecting relevant data broken down by group, WHO attempts both to relate these data to health determinants (e.g., membership in less privileged social groups and exposure to various hazards) and to develop and disseminate interventions to improve conditions for members of such groups.
A characteristic common to groups that experience health inequities (e.g., poor or marginalized persons, racial and ethnic minorities, and women) is lack of power in political, social, and/or economic terms. Thus, to be effective and sustainable, interventions that aim to redress inequities must typically go beyond remedying a particular health inequality and also help empower the group in question through systemic changes, such as law reform, changes in economic or social relationships, or the like.