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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Public Health

This guide was created to assist Public Health students with research using library resources and also grey literature.

What is Health Equity?

"Health equity discusses the concept of every person having an equal opportunity to achieve their optimal health. This concept is different than the idea of everyone having equal health, but rather equal access to resources needed to improve or maintain health (WHO, 2017). Health is affected by many factors beyond genetics or healthcare.

The social determinants of health describe the phenomenon of how social constructs can also impact health in ways that may be unfair or unjust for certain groups within a population (Solar & Irwin, 2010)."

[Source: What is Health Equity?, Ontario Public Health Association]

Tips for improving your searches

  • Be sure to use a variety of subject headings and keywords
    • It's important to use a wide-ranging vocabulary - and bear in mind that using only contemporary words or phrases may be limiting. While some of the words used to categorize the literature in databases may be outdated, problematic, or offensive rather than reflecting contemporary usage, it's still useful to use them for the purpose of discovering older research on a topic (often due to a time lag before newly emerging terminology becomes commonplace enough to be reflected in their subject headings).
  • Remember to go beyond exact synonyms - use related keywords, including antonyms too!
    • Consider searching for words with the opposite meaning (e.g. equity or inequity, racist or anti-racist, barriers or facilitators, etc)
  • Try out search filters (pre-made/canned search strategies) for specific populations, equity, and socioeconomic factors
    •  when searching in a database, these filters are helpful in pulling out trickier, multifaceted concepts like social determinants of health, or ensuring that you don't miss essential names that are used to describe a certain population group

Additional search guidance:

See this section on Cochrane resources for reviews on Health Equity, including:

Selected Books


Other Resources