Updated on: 02/24/2022


Background on Health Equity

Learn more about health equity and how it relates to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s mission.

Note: Hispanic is used to reflect current data collection practices. We acknowledge this may not be the preferred term. Throughout this report, NH refers to Non-Hispanic. People of color refers to individuals identifying as Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Other. Unless otherwise noted, adults are ages 18+. Data are most recently available for the specified data source.

This section is intended to provide some foundational knowledge to the health equity topics covered in this report. We encourage readers to consult the resources/references throughout the report for more extensive understanding of specific public health topics.

The mission of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is to prevent illness, injury, and premature death, to assure access to high quality public health and health care services, and to promote wellness and health equity for all people in the Commonwealth. Disparities in health outcomes are linked with socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, history, and other social characteristics1. Understanding how the social, geographic and economic factors shape health is necessary to identify areas for intervention and meet the needs of Massachusetts residents. Adapted from the 2017 Massachusetts State Health Assessment

Public Health Framework for Reducing Inequities

CDC Health Impact Pyramid

Key Terms

What is health equality?

Everyone is given the same health intervention without consideration of underlying needs.

What are health disparities?

Disparities are significant differences in health outcomes between populations.

What are health inequities?

Inequities are the unjust distribution of resources and power between populations which manifests in disparities.

What is health equity?

Everyone has what they need to attain their highest level of health.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC health disparities and inequalities report: United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(3), 1-187. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/o...

Indicator selection

This report gathered equity metrics found throughout DPH published data reports in one common location. When choosing the indicators to feature in this dashboard, we focused on publicly available data and the State Health Assessment (SHA) priority indicators. In some instances proxy measures were used if race/ethnicity data were limited (e.g. Hepatitis B Vaccinations Rates in place of Viral Hepatitis Prevalence Rates). Only indicators that had sufficient data for breakdowns by race/ethnicity were included.

Time-frame for Data Shown

In all cases, the most recent data for each indicator are incorporated. For some topics (e.g. hospitalizations for various causes), only older data are available by race/ethnicity. However, the goal of this dashboard is to capture the current experiences of this priority population. As such, the years of data presented are different for each chart; we opted for the most recent data available over using the same (older) year across all indicators in the report

Race/Ethnicity Group Definition and Data Collection

This report presents race/ethnicity data as it is collected and defined by each source. DPH complies with the the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards and have adapted the recommendations to capture this information. We acknowledge that the race/ethnicity breakdowns presented here may not reflect each group's preferred terms. We recognize that race groups are not monolithic. Grouping into larger categories (e.g. Asian) and grouping Hispanic separately (e.g. Black and Hispanic is not a category in this report) is problematic and may not fully capture the experiences specific groups have. Data on language and disability status are not reflected in this version of the report but we plan to include these in future versions. Detailed information on the specific race/ethnicity group definitions and data collection practices can be found using the links to data sources provided for each chart. The DPH Race/Ethnicity/Language Data Standards Guide provides information on current department wide minimum compliance for collecting, defining, and reporting this information.

Data Suppression

For some charts, race/ethnicity groups may not be shown. This varies by data source and reflects insufficient sample size to support reliable estimates or suppression to protect residents privacy. For more information on the DPH suppression guidelines, please see the Department of Public Health Confidentiality Procedures.

Current Analysis

Unless otherwise noted, the differences between race/ethnicity groups in this report are based on descriptive observations (i.e. estimates are higher or lower than others) and key findings for the data shown in charts do not represent statistically significant differences. Any language that indicates statistical significance is taken directly from reports that have performed these analyses separately from this dashboard. For more information on how analyses were performed and definitions for significance, please see the data source notes provided for each chart.

CI refers to Confidence Interval (if available), which describes the certainty of a value. The Department of Public Health uses a 95% confidence interval.

Future Plans

This initial report focuses on communities of color. Additional dashboards on the other priority populations will be created. We also plan to expand dashboard contents including adding more indicators, updating data currently included, and incorporating intersectionality of populations (e.g. data by race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity).

Visual representations of statistical significance and additional analytics to compare differences between groups will also be incorporated.