Tackling the Root Causes of Health Inequity

By Tiffany J. Huang, Program Analyst, Assessment and Planning, NACCHO

The Roots of Health Inequity is an online learning collaborative and Web-based course designed for the public health workforce. The site offers a starting place for those who want to address systemic inequities in health and wellness. Based on a social justice framework, the course introduces public health practitioners to concepts and strategies for taking action in everyday practice.

Launched in 2011, this course now has over 4,500 registered users and more than 120 multi-person learning groups, formed by local health departments, universities, community organizations, and other institutions. To help groups interested in exploring the concepts behind this course more deeply, NACCHO has recently released the following:

  • NA616PDFRoots of Health Inequity Facilitator’s Guide: In its first version, this resource manual provides further guidance for groups and organizations seeking to facilitate in-depth online and in-person discussions about the course content.


  • NA615PDFExploring the Roots of Health Inequity: Essays for Reflection: This collection of four short essays is designed to explore conceptual themes associated with health inequity. The essays are intended to generate dialogue among public health practitioners concerned about growing health inequities and to inspire reflection about strategies directed toward preventing inequities by focusing on the institutions and interests that drive them.


  • NA614PDFExpanding the Boundaries: Health Equity and Public Health Practice: This brief explores the ways in which health equity practitioners might act on the underlying social inequalities that are the root of health inequities, rather than only their consequences. It aims to invite dialogue among local health departments and their community allies.

The Cook County (IL) Department of Public Health is one local health department whose use of the course has helped to further their understanding of their community. As James E. Bloyd, Regional Health Officer, states, “Our jurisdiction has sharp and longstanding divisions along lines of race, class and neighborhood. The Roots of Health Inequity training helped our multi-disciplinary group come to grips with the complexity of the issues. We now have a base of staff who are better equipped to change how we practice in order to fulfill our mission. The monthly brown bag lunches we organized for discussions of each unit were a hit.”

To learn more and register, visit rootsofhealthinequity.org. NACCHO staff are available to provide more information, including guidance documents on how organizations can use the course and obtain continuing education credits. Contact us at rootsofhealthinequity@naccho.org.

Has your organization experienced the Roots of Health Inequity course? Are you interested in participating? Let us know in the comments.

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