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How Public Health Professionals Tackle the Root Causes of Health Inequities in the U.S.

Public health programs in the U.S. are working to improve health equity for Americans.

Health equity occurs when everyone in a society has a fair and just opportunity to achieve their highest level of health.1 The ultimate goal of any public health professional should be to increase health equity and remove the obstacles that create and reinforce health disparities in society. For individuals earning a Master of Public Health degree or seeking jobs in public health, it’s important to understand the root causes of health inequity in the United States in order to help improve everyone’s access to quality healthcare and services.

Roadblocks to Health Equity

The Office of Health Equity, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), defines health equity as the absence of disparities or avoidable differences among socioeconomic and demographic groups or geographic areas in health status and health outcomes such as disease, disability, or mortality.2

How Public Health Professionals Tackle the Root Causes of Health Inequities in the U.S.

While the U.S. has seen an overall great improvement in the population’s health in recent decades, disparities persist in social determinants of health, leading to growing health inequity in the country. Today, public health programs work to address significant differences in health among people in different social groups and geographic areas.

Obstacles to health equity include poverty and discrimination, which can lead to powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and healthcare. The Health Equity Report 2017, published by the HHS, details numerous social determinants of health.3 These are the conditions in the social environment that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. On an individual and group level, social determinants of health include gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, social class, education, income, occupation, employment status, housing tenure, immigrant status, language use, disability status, and social capital.

These social determinants can contribute to an increase in health risk factors, including smoking, drug and alcohol use, poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity. As a result, they can lead to disparities in healthcare access and quality, life expectancy, child health, mortality, and prevalence of certain chronic diseases.

Removing Barriers to Health Equity

Public health professionals research the ways that social inequities are linked to health inequities, and their impact on our health behaviors, medical care, working conditions, environmental exposure, personality, and early life conditions. Improving the health of all Americans and eliminating health disparities is the overall goal of Healthy People 2020, a public health program led by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, part of the HHS.4 Goals of the program include increasing access to high-quality education, nutritious food, safe housing, affordable public transportation, health insurance, and clean water and air for all Americans.

Become a Public Health Professional and Help Eliminate Health Inequities

If you are someone who sees people experiencing health inequity and you want to do something about it, earning your Master of Public Health degree is a great first step to becoming a public health professional working to improve everyone’s access to better health. Walden University offers a Master of Public Health (MPH) program that’s ideal for students seeking public health careers focused on reducing health disparities.

With coursework on topics such as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, public health administration, and social and behavioral sciences, Walden’s MPH program offers a comprehensive curriculum designed to give students a global perspective on public health. Students enrolled in online classes in the MPH program receive a high-quality education focused on preparing them to address public health challenges, conduct research, promote positive social change, and improve health equity in communities around the world.

Earning an advanced degree such as a master’s or doctoral degree takes hard work and dedicated studies, and online schools give you the flexibility to take classes around your busy schedule. When you enroll in Walden’s online classes, you’ll find faculty and students guided by values such as professional integrity, respectful engagement, cultural sensitivity, effective leadership, collaboration, social justice, and responsibility for positive social change.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs. Expand your career options and earn your graduate degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Consistent with our commitment to continuous quality improvement, Walden University has designed the curriculum for the Master of Public Health (MPH) program to reflect the professional guidelines set forth by leading public health organizations.

CEPH Applicant Status
Walden University applied to the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) for accreditation of its Master of Public Health (MPH) program on September 20, 2014. The accreditation review will address only the MPH program; other degree programs and areas of study offered by this institution will not be included in the unit of accreditation review. For more information on the accreditation process, please visit the CEPH website.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission