Equity and Health

Identifying, measuring, and addressing health inequities across countries, cultures, and communities

According to the World Health Organization, health equity is defined as the absence of unfair and avoidable or remediable differences in health among population groups.1

Today, many individuals and communities do not have this opportunity because of bias and systemic barriers with regards to gender, race, education, socioeconomic status, geographical location, and other structural factors.

Addressing inequities in health and healthcare benefits all of society. Reducing gaps in access and quality of care for women, for example, improves health outcomes for infants, as well. Advancing to reduce health inequity across social groups strengthens healthcare systems and contributes significantly to economic growth.2

Reducing inequities in health will require a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. Three sets of actions will be particularly important in all societies where health inequities between groups persist:

  • Improve affordable, high-quality access to healthy food, healthcare services and products, and other resources vital to good health to all parts of society
  • Invest to ensure that innovation in health and healthcare addresses the needs of the disadvantaged
  • Work to better engage underserved communities and to help them establish trust-based relationships with health care providers

8X

higher infant mortality rate

in low-income countries in Asia and Africa compared to high-income countries in Asia and Europe, respectively3

7

years difference in life expectancy

among 30-year-old men with the highest versus lowest levels of education across OECD countries4

50%

higher likelihood

for women to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack than men5

Topics to Explore

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) is interested in exploring long-term questions such as:

  • What are the most effective ways to measure health inequities and track success to inform effective actions?
  • How can stakeholders in the healthcare system and beyond collaborate to improve equitable access to all factors necessary for a healthy life?
  • How can we leverage data to consistently and transparently reveal biases in the healthcare system, while investing in needed system capabilities to address these biases?

Featured Insights

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Health equity: A framework for the epidemiology of care

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Unlocking opportunities in women’s healthcare

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Income alone may be insufficient: How employers can help advance health equity in the workplace

– A recent survey of large US employers found women of color and LGBTQ+ employees have the highest share of unmet basic needs. Employers may consider expanding the range of benefits offered.
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COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects

– What is good for gender equality is good for the economy and society as well. The COVID-19 pandemic puts that truth into stark relief and raises critically important choices.

1. For more information, see “Health equity,” World Health Organization, 2022
2. “Health at a Glance 2017: OECD indicators,” OECDiLibrary, OECD 2017
3. For more information, see “Social determinants of health,” World Health Organization, 2022, and “Child outcomes: infant mortality,” OECD family database, OECD 2022
4. “Life expectancy by sex and education level,” Health at a Glance 2019, OECDiLibrary, OECD 2019
5. Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Abrams Press, Mar 12, 2019

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