After George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, state governments and our health care system have increased attention to racism and its impact on health equity. There has also been heightened awareness that health equity is a problem for communities other than racial and ethnic minorities, including persons with disabilities, people residing in rural communities, non-binary and/or non-cisgender people, and others.
With this elevation of health equity as a priority concern came a need to better understand it through measurement and to be able to assess the effectiveness of efforts to improve equity.
Almost immediately, two problems became apparent. First, there is no national standard method for capturing data on key variables needed to assess health equity. Some organizations, such as the Office of Management and Budget, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, have developed guidelines for collection of race and ethnicity data, but they are not always consistent. Furthermore, there is even less consensus on what categories to use to capture data on other variables, such as language, sexual orientation, gender, and disability status. Second, there are no standard measures for assessing performance in improving health equity. The latter are essential to creating accountability and transparency for health equity.
This article begins to address the second problem by suggesting a typology of health equity measures. We offer this typology with the hope that others can build from this work, and we can move toward a better understanding of how to measure health equity and, from there, improve health equity by reducing disparities in performance across groups.