Creating a Shared Vision and Definition for Health Equity
Creating a shared vision for health equity is
foundational for establishing common goals and a sense of urgency for change among community partners.
Developing a shared vision for health equity may also help partners begin to reflect
on the structural and systemic factors that contribute to health inequities. For example, the National
Collaborative for Health Equity recommends that health departments work with communities and partners to create
a collective vision for advancing equity and common understanding about the root causes of inequities.
Seeking a wide range of perspectives is essential to ensuring that a shared definition of health equity will
resonate with diverse community members. For example, the Oregon Health Equity Commission sought feedback from
tribes, community advisory councils, community-based organizations, the Oregon Health Policy Board, and Medicaid
coordinated care organizations when developing
a definition of health equity. Different organizations provided different suggestions for creating a
definition, including considerations for terminology, literacy, readability, and accessibility.
Some rural communities will find it imperative to acknowledge concepts like justice and racism in their
definition of health equity, especially when historical discrimination continues to shape their health outcomes.
In other rural communities, the phrase “health equity” may not resonate with community members.
These communities may find common ground in defining health equity in terms of core values and equal
opportunity. Module 1 includes additional resources for defining
Examples of Shared Visions and Definitions of Health Equity in Rural Communities
Department of Health shifted the way it described health. Instead of focusing on rates of disease
and sickness, the department changed the narrative of health to include factors that contribute to
well-being for all Minnesotans. Rice County Public
Health uses the Minnesota Department of Health's
definition of health equity in its own health
equity strategic plan: “The opportunity for every person to realize their health potential
— the highest level of health possible for that person — without limits imposed by structural
the Hills Network in West Virginia worked together to create the following definition of health
equity: “Our efforts over the next ten years will result in improved physical environments with
greater opportunities and accessible support for all. With a growing business community and increased access
to broadband, we expect an increase in available job opportunities. The Network aims to address the social
determinants of health and health equity barriers to ensure the changing local economy impacts the community
The Columbia Gorge
Enhanced Incubation Plan of the Gorge
Health Equity Collaborative in rural Oregon and Washington describes a comprehensive vision for
health equity, including “a community where, in addition to zip code, cultural background, racial
identity, sexual orientation, gender, or any other factor no longer define your access to the resources
needed for a healthy, happy and productive life.”
The West Marion Inc. in North Carolina
developed the following shared vision for health equity: “Our vision is for a healthy and equitable West
Marion. A place where residents are engaged to become leaders to create change through new businesses,
empowered youth, affordable housing, teaching gardens, and a community center that honors our ancestors and
creates opportunities for our future.”
The 11 coalitions that participate in the Two Georgias Initiative were tasked with developing their own
definitions of health equity. The Georgia Health Initiative (formerly the Healthcare Georgia Foundation) engaged the Partnership for Southern Equity to provide technical assistance to the
coalitions as they worked together to identify a shared vision for health equity in their communities.
Collaborators of the Humboldt Community
Health Trust in rural California sign a partnership agreement stating they will work to achieve a
shared vision: “Humboldt County is a safe, healthy, and resilient community where everyone thrives.”
Questions for Consideration
How are collaborators and our organization defining health equity?
Who was involved in choosing this definition?
How will we operationalize this vision? (For example, how will this vision guide our organization's work?)
Program Clearinghouse Examples