Health disparities mean the same thing as health inequalities. They are simply differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to health care between population groups.
Health inequities, on the other hand, are differences in health that are not only unnecessary and avoidable but, in addition, are considered unfair and unjust. Health inequities are rooted in social injustices that make some population groups more vulnerable to poor health than other groups.
Consider the following examples: Male babies are generally born at a heavier birth weight than female babies. This is a health disparity. We expect to see this difference in birth weight because it is rooted in genetics. Because this difference is unavoidable, it is considered a health disparity.
On the other hand, babies born to Black women are more likely to die in their first year of life than babies born to White women. Some of this difference can be attributed to poverty – a higher percentage of Black mothers are poor and face hardships associated with poverty that can affect their health; however, we find differences in the health of Black and White mothers and babies even if we compare Blacks and Whites with the same income. Many scientists have shown links between the stress from racism experienced by Black women and negative health outcomes. This is a health inequity because the difference between the populations is unfair, avoidable and rooted in social injustice.