Social and Health Equity and Equality – The Need for a Scientific Framework

Adriana María Correa Botero, María Mercedes Arias Valencia., Jaime Carmona-Fonseca


Problem: Studies on health/disease often use concepts such as equity/inequity, equality/inequality, and social justice. These terms are not always clearly and precisely defined, nor are they used with the same meaning by different authors.

Objective: 1) To present and analyze the concepts used in the literature on living conditions, social justice, social and health equity and inequality, and 2) to offer a conceptual framework that allows these concepts to be used in a scientific manner.

Methodology: Literature review and comparison of terms used in both general and specialist dictionaries, articles, and books.

Results: Broad basic definitions of terms are presented. The approach used by Latin American Collective Health and Critical Epidemiology is based on understanding the social origins of equity/inequity and their visible manifestation in the determination of equality/inequality.

Conclusion: There is little agreement on the conceptualization of these terms. The critical realism developed by Latin American Collective Health and Critical Epidemiology examines equity/inequity as a social process that generates equality/inequality and enables a scientific approach to the study of both concepts.

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Editorial Offices:

Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
Bronx, New York, 10461

Asociación Latinoamericana de Medicina Social (ALAMES)/Latin American Social Medicine Association:
ALAMES, Southern Cone Region, Cassinoni 1440 – 802, CP 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay.
ALAMES, Mexico Region, San Jerónimo 70 – 1, Col. La Otra Banda, CP 01090, México, D.F.