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Equity requires intentional and targeted attention to the communities that bear the disproportionate burden of health, economic, and education inequality — more often than not, low income communities and communities of color. Equity also recognizes the why and how — the historical, structural, and systemic root causes that have led to racial and social inequities, and the processes that perpetuate and uphold barriers to opportunity.

What is Equity?

There are many definitions and frameworks for understanding equity. Vital Village, along with the HOPE Consortium partners, BUILD Initiative and Nemours, offers up one such framework to help guide the body of work focused on improving the opportunities, environments, and pathways for children and families to be healthy across the life course.


For us, equity means achieving the highest level of health, education, and wellbeing for all people. It entails focused societal efforts to address inequalities that are preventable and avoidable by equalizing the conditions for health for all groups, especially for those who have experienced socioeconomic disadvantage or historical injustices (adapted from Healthy People 2020).


Equity must also address historical oppression and institutional and structural barriers that prevent families and children — particularly from the prenatal period to age 5 — from accessing and utilizing the wide range of supports and resources needed for optimal development.


Ensuring equity includes:

  • increasing opportunities for children and the adults who care for them;

  • removing barriers to those opportunities;

  • distributing resources and rewards in ways that eliminate and do not exacerbate inequities; and

  • ensuring mechanism are in place for initiatives, policies, and programs designed to advance equity and dismantle inequities to determine who is advantaged and who is disadvantaged (e.g., by historical oppression or structural and institutional barriers).

Why Equity?

"Equity means achieving the highest level of health, education, and wellbeing for all people. It entails focused societal efforts to address inequalities that are preventable and avoidable by equalizing the conditions for health for all groups, especially for those who have experienced socioeconomic disadvantage or historical injustices"



National Witnesses to Hunger.jpg

In Philadelphia, Witnesses to Hunger centers the individuals who are most impacted by inequities as the drivers of their work. The organization recruits, trains, and empowers families who are experiencing hunger and poverty to serve as “witnesses of the issue” -- share their experiences and the impact of these issues – to community leaders and stakeholders, who in turn join with the community to advocate for policy and system changes at the local, state, and national level.

While great progress has been made to ensure that children and their families grow up in healthy, nurturing environments, we know not every child has been able to benefit from these investments and opportunities. For far too many families — including low-income families and families of color who are struggling through deep poverty, facing deep-seated racial biases that pervade systems of education, health, and early childhood, and grappling with the impact of intergenerational and historical trauma and legacies of oppression — these opportunities are out of reach. These social, economic, and material contexts profoundly impact the health, wellbeing, and trajectory of a young child’s life, not only in the early stages of development but also across the entire life course and for future generations to come.


However, growing attention and commitment to advancing equity have spurred a powerful movement of leaders, parents, and advocates who believe in the possibility of transforming systems to be more centered on giving the best start possible to the children who are facing the most entrenched inequities. Local communities are coming together, recognizing inequities in outcomes and infrastructure that are leaving too many children behind, and engaging in critical work and sustainable solutions to make sure every child has the best start of life possible.

Featured Tools and Resources

Highlighted below are some useful resources and tools to help your coalition or community initiative build a deeper understanding of equity, assess equity within your context or organization, and begin to operationalize equity in your day-to-day work.

  • Equity Manifesto (PolicyLink): The Equity Manifesto has been inspired by the work, commitments, insights, and resolve of the many partners with whom PolicyLink has shared the journey of advancing racial and economic equity. Please use it, share it, and reflect on it in your lives, your work, your struggle. Just please don’t change it.  

  • Racial Equity: Getting to Results (Government Alliance on Race and Equity): This resource, building on the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) methodology, was developed to guide jurisdictions in using a racial equity lens to identify metrics and implement community processes to have greater impact in their work. An anti-racist, racial equity-focused RBA process starts with the desired end result and works backward to the “how” to ensure that racial equity action plans advance community results with stakeholder-driven implementation.

  • Racial Equity Action Plans: A How-to Manual (Government Alliance on Race and Equity): Racial equity action plans can put a theory of change into action to drive institutional and structural change and achieve a collective vision of racial equity. This manual provides guidance for local governments to develop their own racial equity action plans after a period of research and information gathering, including advice and tools for conducting this research.

  • Racial Equity Tools: Racial Equity Tools is a website designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity. This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula, and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level — in systems, organizations, communities, and the culture at large.

  • Why Race and Place Matter (PolicyLink): This report delves into issues of race and place and what they mean in the context of building healthy communities. Dynamic groups and initiatives are featured to illuminate action at the intersection of health, place, and race.

  • A Practitioner’s Guide for Advancing Health Equity (Center for Disease Control and Prevention): This comprehensive tool provides lessons learned and innovative ideas on how to maximize the effects of policy, systems, and environmental improvement strategies — all with the goal of reducing health disparities and advancing health equity.

  • Blueprint for Belonging (Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley): The Blueprint for Belonging project is a collaborative initiative of over 20 organizations united in achieving transformative change in California through the development of a strategic narrative centered on an outcome of inclusion and belonging for all marginalized groups.


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