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Office of Health Equity

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What is Health Equity?

Health equity is the attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices and the elimination of health and health care inequities.

What is a Health Disparity?

A health disparity is a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social and/or economic obstacles to health and/or a clean environment based on these:

  • Racial or ethnic group
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Geographic location
  • Religion
  • Socio-economic status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Mental health
  • Military era
  • Cognitive / sensory / physical disability
  • Other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion

Office of Health Equity History

In 2011 the Veterans Health Administration chartered a health care equality workgroup. The purpose of the workgroup was to determine how VA could provide a more equitable health care delivery system. The workgroup's recommendations, including efforts by the VA Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans, supported a dedicated national-level office to champion equitable health care for all Veterans. As a result, the Office of Health Equity (OHE) was established in 2012.


All Veterans will attain equitable health through high-quality health care and support for their social needs.


OHE advances health equity and ensures social needs are met for all Veterans through leadership, data analysis, education, tool development, and quality improvement initiatives.


Leadership - Strengthen and broaden the ability of VA leadership to address health inequalities and reduce health disparities through operations, policy oversight and research.

Awareness - Increase awareness of the significance of health inequalities and disparities and the actions necessary within VHA to improve health care and health outcomes for disadvantaged populations.

Health Outcomes - Improve health and health care outcomes for Veterans experiencing health disparities.

Diversity and Cultural Competency of the Workforce - Improve cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the VHA workforce involved in advancing the health and well-being of Veterans.

Data, Research and Evaluation - Improve the availability, coordination and utilization of data and diffusion of research and evaluation outcomes in order to progress towards the achievement of health equity.

VHA Strategic Plan

OHE is business owner for VHA Strategic Plan Objective (1e) Quality and Equity - Veterans will receive timely, high quality, personalized, safe effective and equitable health care irrespective of geography, gender, race, age, culture or sexual orientation. Strategy: VHA will develop an understanding of where health and health care inequities exist and identify factors that contribute to inequity in Veteran populations and intervene to eliminate the inequities.