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What is equity?  

Equity is not the same as equality.

We explain the difference in the context of health and wellbeing. 

15 Feb 2021
News 3 min read
2 women reading and writing at a table

What's the difference between equity and equality?


If you believe in human rights it’s important to understand the difference between equity and equality.


Author: VicHealth works with health promotion experts to create a Victoria where everyone can enjoy better health and wellbeing. Learn more about us.


What's the difference between equity and equality?


If a picture is worth a thousand words, this popular ‘equity vs equality’ image could start a thousand conversations.

equality vs equity graphic

Craig Froehle created this image in 2012 to show the difference between equality and equity. More information here.

The image visually represents just how different these two ideas are:

Equality means treating everyone the same regardless of their needs.

Equity is about treating people differently based on their needs.

Now you have an idea of the key differences between equality and equity (and if not, you can read our longer explanation of the difference between health inequality and inequity), let’s look at how recent times have impacted things.

How recent events led to change

Inequity was on the rise before events such as the coronavirus pandemic came along.

The new Life and Health Re-imagined research report describes how coronavirus has both highlighted the issues, and paved the way for positive change.

3 ways the pandemic highlighted equity solutions:

1. Health care

Telehealth services have become readily available, which means where you live or your access to transport doesn’t get in the way of accessing professional medical advice. Changes like this can help address inequities between people who live in the city and people who live in regional and rural areas.

2. Jobs

Young people and women are more likely to work in retail and hospitality jobs, so were more likely to lose their job when coronavirus restrictions started. With this in mind, we need to re-shape the future of work and jobs so that your age and gender don’t determine whether you have a secure job.

3. Education

Free childcare helped many families keep their kids in care after a coronavirus-related job loss or reduced hours/pay. We know that free or more affordable  childcare can make a difference to people - whether we are in the middle of a global pandemic or not. So supporting people to balance raising kids with study or work, no matter how much money they have, creates equity in our communities.

Looking at equity in the context of coronavirus helps us understand the difference between equity and equality, and helps us consider relevant solutions. 

More about the research behind these suggestions

The research paper on Equity during the coronavirus response is part of our five-part series Life and Health Re-imagined.

We explored how we can all create a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable community – for everyone. We did this by bringing leading experts together for five weeks of ideas and discussions with the potential to change the shape of communities across Victoria.

Each week included:

  • A new, thought-provoking article and creative imagery published after each event.
  • A live, interactive online event featuring local and international guests, and host Shelley Ware.
  • Week-long coverage and in-depth discussion of the ideas on
  • Ongoing conversation on our social media channels.



Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
VicHealth acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land. We pay our respects to all Elders past, present and future.
This website may contain images, names and voices of deceased people.

VicHealth acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.