Health Equity and Environmental Public Health Practice

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Health equity is achieved when everyone has a fair opportunity to meet their health potential. Health inequities result from systematic disparities in the social determinants of health (the external social, economic, environmental, or political factors that influence their life circumstances). Public health organizations in Canada recognize a role for all public health professionals to advance health equity. Environmental public health practice is impacted by determinants such as socioeconomic status, language or culture, education, geographic location, and mental health. These determinants can impact:

  • exposure to unhealthy environments;
  • vulnerability to environmental health hazards;
  • ability to engage in health-supporting behaviours; and
  • access to services (WHO, 2010).

Environmental public health practitioners can advance health equity in two main ways:

  1. They can support individuals who face barriers related to their social circumstances, thereby increasing the likelihood of long term compliance and improved public health. 
  2. They can advocate for and create policies and programs that remove structural barriers to health that affect various sectors of the population.

The National Collaborating Centres for Environmental Health (NCCEH) and Determinants of Health (NCCDH) have an ongoing partnership to support health equity through environmental public health practice. Please visit for additional information and resources.

NCCEH Resources

  • Handbook of health equity in environmental public health practice (2017)
    This handbook examines health equity in the context of environmental public health; identifies factors to facilitate the inclusion of health equity; provides practical tools to integrate equity into practice; and offers an evidence-based approach to support heath equity through planning and interventions in the built environment.
  • Creating space: enabling organizational capacity for action on health equity (2016)
    These workshops at Annual Educational Conferences of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI) explored how practitioners can take action to support health equity, and identified opportunities to build organizational capacity around health equity.
  • Key resources for environmental public health practitioners to address health equity: A curated list (2016)
    This curated list by the NCCEH/NCCDH identifies resources specific to environmental public health practitioners with respect to their roles in addressing the social determinants of health (SDH) and health equity in consultation, enforcement, and education.
  • Toward health equity: practical actions for public health inspectors (2016)
    This Framework by the NCCEH/NCCDH outlines 10 considerations to help practitioners identify how equity work relates to their role and how they can begin to take action. It can be used by staff with any degree of knowledge or experience related to health equity. A User guide highlights potential points of influence for frontline staff, managers, and educators.
  • Equity in environmental health practice: a role for public health inspectors (2015)
    This CHNET-Works Fireside Chat webinar was presented with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and NCCDH. It summarizes results of a pilot study exploring how public health inspectors respond to clients who face barriers related to the social determinants of health, and includes discussion about strategies to support vulnerable clients with experts from the field.

Selected External Resources

Health agency and government reports

Peer-reviewed articles

Upcoming Research

  • RentSafe is an initiative led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Public health, legal, and community stakeholders are working together to address unhealthy housing conditions for low income tenants.


This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

Last updated Nov 02, 2017