Health Equity Fact Sheet

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is committed to ensuring health equity is embedded in an all-of-public health approach to overcoming persistent health disparities and health inequities across a range of population groups that disproportionately experience poor health outcomes. In April of 2021, CDC declared racism a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans and, as a result, affects the health of our entire nation.  As part of that commitment, we developed the agency’s CORE Health Equity Strategy resolving to create comprehensive health equity science, optimize interventions, reinforce existing partnerships and create new ones, and enhance our workforce engagement. Then, we embarked on an agency-wide strategic process to make sure health equity, and the elimination of health inequities, are central to the work we do and that every center, every division, and every program are advancing these efforts.

CDC’s CORE Commitment to Health Equity

Launched in 2021, CORE is CDC’s first agency-wide health equity strategy and CDC’s umbrella framework to transform its work by engaging and challenging every part of the agency to incorporate health equity and diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (DEIAB) as a foundational element across all of its work – from science and research to programs and from partnerships to workforce. CDC strives to move beyond naming differences through “markers,” such as race, to identifying and addressing changeable “drivers,” such as housing, neighborhood conditions, and access to health care.  CDC’s 18 Centers/Institute/Offices (CIOs) developed a health equity action plan, which has been integrated into a comprehensive and unified agency-wide strategy.

CDC’s CORE Commitment to Health Equity stands on four key pillars: cultivating comprehensive health equity science; optimizing interventions; reinforcing and expanding robust partnerships; and enhancing capacity and workplace diversity, inclusion, and engagement.  CDC’s health equity strategy builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing equity, combating discrimination, and supporting communities who are underserved, as described in Executive Orders 13985, 13988, 13995, and 14091.

Health Equity Accomplishments

CDC works to ensure health equity is embedded in an all-of-public health approach to overcoming persistent health disparities and health inequities across a range of population groups that disproportionately experience poor health outcomes in the way we conduct our science, gather and analyze our data, develop our workforce and work with our partners. Provided below are examples of achievements and advancements as a result of our commitment to embedding health equity into our overall approach.

Partnerships to Advance Health Equity

  • In 2023, CDC launched a health equity partnership network in collaboration with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of State Offices of Minority Health (NASOMH). This network, the Power of Partnerships, mobilizes health equity partners within local Offices of Minority Health, Offices of Women’s Health/Maternal and Child Health, community-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations and assists communities across the country with meeting local health needs, especially during emergency situations. Impact: Through this network, multidisciplinary teams engage to share information on implementing evidence-based practices and policies that advance the health and well-being of people who have experienced historical discrimination and oppression across jurisdictions.
  • In 2023, CDC launched a series of health equity partnership webinars to bring together an intersectional collective of health equity organizations that focus on a range of populations including racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and more. Impact: Public health and healthcare partners learn about and apply promising health equity strategies in their communities through these informative webinars. Since 2023, over 2500 partners have joined for sessions on the respiratory virus response season and health equity communications – the series will continue throughout 2024.

Health Equity in Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs)

  • In 2023, CDC developed an agency-wide health equity Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) template and checklist resources with accompanying guidance that advises CDC Centers, Institutes, and Offices on how to embed health equity into non-research NOFOs. Impact: The new template and checklist help ensure that public health initiatives funded through CDC NOFOs include strategies that can reduce or prevent health disparities, including those experienced by minoritized and stigmatized populations. As of 2023, 100% of CDC’s new NOFOs contain the standard HHS-required health equity language. This has significantly increased the proportion of CDC public health infrastructure and capacity-building grants and cooperative agreements that explicitly address health disparities or social determinants of health.

Building Health Equity into CDC Science

  • In 2023, CDC published an article on CDC’s Health Equity Science Principles which introduces health equity science as a conceptual framework to advance health equity and describes six principles to guide the development, implementation, dissemination, and use of effective health equity science. Impact: The Health Equity Science Principles establish an equity-focused scientific framework to guide researchers inside and outside of CDC looking to address equity through public health science. Leaders are applying these equity principles in public health surveillance, research, and evaluation.
  • In 2023, CDC collaborated with multiple community partners through its Communities in Context program in the Greater Detroit, Michigan area to pilot a public health monitoring framework and track structural drivers of inequities at the local level in order to identify areas to improve community health. Impact: Communities in Context improves public health decision-making by identifying shared priorities for action and creating publicly-available and user-friendly resources that communities can use to support informed action.
  • In 2023, CDC launched the Health Equity Science Manuscript Development Program, an in-service program that supports CDC scientists who show promise in advancing health equity through scientific projects. The part-time, six-to-eight-month program focused on health equity science involves mentoring and training in the development of impactful health equity scientific publications. Participants produce at least one peer-reviewed scientific manuscript focused on a priority health equity science issue and a related scientific presentation. Impact: The Health Equity Science Manuscript Development Program is helping to develop a cadre of scientists focused on establishing the evidence-base for programs and policies that advance health equity.

Developing Health Equity Leaders

  • In 2023, CDC launched the Foundations of Health Equity Self-Guided Training Plan on CDC Train, a website portal for public health workforce training. The Training Plan includes a suite of 13 self-guided on-demand training videos covering six health equity competencies to help individuals develop foundational knowledge and skills that are essential for public health work to advance health equity. Impact: The trainings are helping to build capacity among public health professionals to integrate health equity into their daily work. Over 600 professionals are currently registered for the training plan and evaluations demonstrate that the trainings are meeting professional needs and enhancing knowledge and skills in health equity.
  • In 2023, CDC hosted a learning session for 275 scholars from the John R. Lewis Scholars Program, a CDC program which introduces undergraduate students to topics in minority health and health equity and supports their career development. Each of the seven funded CDC-institutions delivers a program with specific focus areas within public health and minority health. Exceptional Lewis scholars were also awarded the Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award in 2023. Impact: The John R. Lewis Scholarship Program helps to build a cadre of new public health leaders who have knowledge and experience in health equity. Over 90% of student scholars report that their interest in public health increases after completion of the program and 77% report that the program influenced their career paths.

Health Equity Intervention Design

  • In April 2023, CDC hosted an agency-wide webinar on health equity strategies used and lessons learned from a 12-month COVID-19 monitoring and evaluation study of seven local communities. Impact: Through this webinar, CDC offices were equipped with health equity strategies for responding to a public health crisis in real-time.
  • In 2022, CDC developed the Health Equity Intervention and Action Principles to outline critical areas of focus and consideration for CDC and external organizations to strengthen their structure, processes, and programs to advance equity. These principles are based on best practices and lessons learned in the design and implementation of effective interventions for communities that have historically been marginalized. Impact: The Health Equity Intervention and Action Principles establish an equity-focused framework to guide public health practitioners inside and outside of CDC looking to address equity through interventions and systems change. Leaders are applying these equity principles in intervention development, program implementation, and systems change initiatives.

Advancing Communication in Health Equity

  • In 2022, CDC conducted message testing to learn more about what various audiences think, understand, and feel about the concept of health equity and ways to create effective messages for specific audiences. The message testing informed three communication principles that help to switch the conversation from naming and quantifying health disparities to addressing health equity. Impact: Communicating using a health equity frame means focusing on creating a broader understanding of the social, structural, and systemic factors that may impact health outcomes.
  • In 2022, to further advance communication about health equity, CDC developed a series of videos to explain health equity and related concepts, including social determinants of health, racism and health, and intersectionality. Together, this series of videos provides a more complete picture of what health equity is, why it is important to advance health equity as part of a complete public health approach, and provides a tool for public health practitioners, academics, and decision makers to use when explaining these complicated topics. Impact: The videos improve partners’ understanding of the meaning of health equity; the videos have been shared widely (near 100,000 views) since being uploaded in 2023.
  • In 2021, CDC developed the Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication to emphasize the importance of addressing all people inclusively and respectfully. The guide provides principles, resources, and specific suggestions about how to communicate with a health equity lens and addresses a variety of topics. This living document will be adapted as both language and cultural norms change. Impact: These communication principles serve to inform public health professionals within and outside of CDC ensure their communication products and strategies adapt to the specific cultural, linguistic, environmental, and historical situation of each population or audience of focus.

Health Equity Emergency Response Cadre

  • During the COVID-19 response, CDC introduced a new position, the Chief Health Equity Officer (CHEO) into its Incident Management Structure to address COVID-19–associated health disparities in morbidity and mortality caused by systemic and structural inequities. Starting in 2023, the CDC Office of Readiness and Response ensures that agency-led responses include a Chief Health Equity Officer (CHEO) position or unit in order to address health disparities and inequities. Impact: The CHEO role has helped to ensure that health disparities data were examined and reported on to inform development of culturally relevant recommendations for populations more heavily impacted by COVID-19. Additional health equity roles have been identified as part of a response cadre and will be integrated into each CDC task force and unit to ensure standard implementation of the health equity strategy for future emergency responses.

CDC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan

  • In 2022, CDC launched its Antiracism and Health Sprint Team to focus on strengthening institutional subject matter expertise and equity infrastructure as part of CDC’s DEIA Strategic Action Plan. Impact: The Sprint Team works to ensure that CDC operationalizes best practices for intersectional racial equity.
  • In response to Executive Order 14035 on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workplace and the release of the Government-wide Strategic Plan to Advance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce in 2021, CDC developed an agency-specific DEIA Strategic Plan to emphasize our commitment to developing a workforce and workplace that represents equity principles and furthers efforts to achieve our public health mission. Impact: This plan led to the establishment of one competency, “Diversity Equity Inclusion & Accessibility Management”, that has been identified as critical and has been integrated into the CDCs Career+ pilot.  Additionally, it informed the development and implementation of an employee DEIA training curriculum, convening of an annual DEIA-Equal employment opportunity forum for all employees, and increased participation in DEIA councils, CDC Organizations and Associations, Workgroups, and Special Emphasis Programs. The agency now annually recognizes the individuals, workgroups, and organizations facilitating DEIA via the DEIAB and EEO Workplace Equity Innovation Award.  We are implementing a diverse hiring panel tool to standardize and automate the way in which diverse resume review and interview panels are formed.  We aim to sustain a culture where our workforce has an enhanced social/cultural understanding of the communities we serve while also infusing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in all we do.

Select Public Health Interventions, Publications and Resources

  • In collaboration with the HHS Office of Environmental Justice, CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) created and launched a website in 2023 for the Environmental Justice Index (EJI) and linked its data to NCEH’s Environmental Justice dashboard.  The EJI equips communities with data to identify and prioritize areas that may require special attention or additional action to improve health and health equity. Impact: The EJI ranks the cumulative impacts of environmental injustice on health for every census tract, allowing communities to better analyze the unique local factors driving impacts on health to inform policy and decision-making, and establish meaningful goals and measure progress towards environmental justice and health equity.
  • The 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) release included new data from the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) and Reactions to Race optional modules along with a technical guide on how to analyze data which can be used by public health professionals, decision-makers, researchers, and others to identify and address the social and structural factors that contribute to poor health outcomes and persistent health inequities. Impact: New data from the Social SDOH and Reactions to Race optional modules help identify multi-level drivers of health equity and standardized data elements and standards to inform development of public health program and policies to address inequities.
  • CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health’s Hear Her campaign team partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) to develop materials focused on reaching and serving AI/AN women and their communities. Materials were released in 2022 and social media aimed at promoting these resources has thus far garnered over 16.5 million impressions. Impact: The campaign has led to accelerated scaling and implementation of evidence-based practices, policies, and interventions addressing health equity.
  • The National Center on Injury Prevention and Control developed and promoted the health equity module of WISQARS in 2022. Impact: The new health equity module improved data analytics and visualizations to assist jurisdictions with examining factors that contribute to health inequities.

CDC’s Office of Health Equity

CDC’s Office of Health Equity (OHE) leads the agency’s efforts to ensure health equity is embedded in an all-of-public health approach. OHE strengthens the implementation of CORE through ongoing leadership, coordination, and collaboration in addressing drivers of health disparities and health inequities. OHE also seeks to reinforce and cultivate CDC Core Capabilities in advancing health equity.

OHE advances the agency’s day-to-day work in health equity through:

  • Strategy: Institutionalizing and aligning agency-wide initiatives to accelerate progress toward health equity.
  • Funding: Expanding the integration of health equity in CDC funding.
  • Partnerships: Increasing community engagement with populations that experience health disparities and health inequities.
  • Public Health Workforce: Building CDC’s internal capacity of subject matter expertise in health equity within a workforce and workplace of diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging.
  • Science and Interventions: Implementing equitable, community-informed practices for advancing health equity in research, surveillance, evaluation, preparedness and response, and laboratory science.

Health Equity Resources

  • CDC’s Health Equity in Action highlights the work of CDC and CDC-funded projects that use culturally appropriate methods to reduce health disparities and advance health equity. The project snapshots real examples of how CDC is integrating equity into all that we do – addressing drivers of health disparities, bringing together partners from various sectors, and enhancing workplace diversity – to ensure all people have an opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
  • CDC’s Conversations in Equity, is a collection of blogs dedicated to increasing awareness of health inequities. It includes stories on partnerships that address health disparities to ultimately achieve the vision of ensuring all people have an opportunity to live as healthy as possible.
  • CDC’s quarterly health equity e-newsletter where partners can subscribe to review perspectives and progress in the science and practice of health equity.