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Behavioral Health Equity


Behavioral health equity is the right of all individuals, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location, to access high-quality and affordable healthcare services and support.

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Advancing behavioral health equity means working to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. In conjunction with access to quality services, this involves addressing social determinants of health—such as employment and housing stability, insurance status, proximity to services, and culturally responsive care—all of which have an impact on behavioral health outcomes.

Drivers of Behavioral Health Inequities

The conditions in the environment where people are born, live, work, play, worship, age, and thrive affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

SDOH are grouped into five domains:

  • economic stability
  • education access and quality
  • healthcare access and quality
  • neighborhood and built environment
  • social and community context.

The SDOH framework recognizes that cross-sectoral systems help advance equity through a lifespan perspective (adapted from Social Determinants of Health: Know What Affects Health, CDC).

The social determinants of health (SDOH) are non-biological factors that influence one’s health status. SDOH contributes to health disparities seen between communities based on race, class, geography, education, healthcare access, and more. It is important to address SDOH as we work to advance behavioral health equity. Learn more about the Healthy People 2030 Framework for SDOH.

Disparities are a particular type of difference that is closely linked to social determinants of health and/or other characteristics historically linked to systemic barriers. Racial and ethnic disparities are difference in health outcomes and access to behavioral health care based on racial background or ethnic heritage.

Equitable access to quality behavioral health services is essential for minimizing behavioral health disparities. It is also important for behavioral health services to be equitable as members of underserved populations walk through the door. Barriers to services are linked to social determinants of health, and include being in an under-resourced geographic area, being uninsured or underinsured, and lacking culturally relevant care.

While English is the primary language of the United States, it is a secondary language for many communities throughout the nation. Limited language access within behavioral health services creates barriers for people and communities with limited English proficiency. In response to language access barriers, OBHE is developing a language access protocol in accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI.

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Behavioral Health Equity Challenge

Participants share their innovative strategies to help underserved racial and ethnic communities access behavioral health services.

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Behavioral Health Topic Areas

Last Updated

Last Updated: 05/25/2023

Last Updated