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But first — what is health equity?

Our Research Coordinator, Kelly, explaining equality versus equity during a presentation.

In our office, we use terms like “population health”, “social determinants of health”, and “health equity” a lot because of who our clients are, and what our projects focus on.

But we don’t want to assume that everyone’s conversations sound like ours. So if you’ve come across the term “health equity” and wondered what it means in practice and why it matters, we’re here to unpack it for you.

Health equity, as a concept, is about social justice in health. It’s a key part of making sure our health systems are as good as they can be. Without it, we end up with health inequity, which is when certain people or populations face worse health outcomes or higher health risks because of their economic, social or environmental conditions.

As the BC Centre for Disease Control explains, when health equity exists, it means that everyone can achieve the best possible standard of health and not be disadvantaged from attaining it because of factors like:

  • Mental health
  • Age
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Education
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Geographic location 

Health inequity is real, and we see examples of its impact all around us — including in Be the Change Group’s home base of Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s why it matters that we do our part to support organizations that are working to bring social justice to health systems.

What we’re doing to help advance health equity 

A photo taken of the street by Be the Change Group’s office located in the Downtown Eastside.

How does our business support health equity in a meaningful way? It’s a team effort that starts with our leadership. 

Our Research Director and Co-founder Dr. Natalie Chan — who’s also a practicing physician working directly with priority populations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — helps guide and inform the work we do, ensuring that we approach all projects through an inclusive and compassionate lens. 

And our Creative Director and Co-founder Brandy Svendson, with her experience in population health and community non-profits, ensures that the creative solutions we develop for clients are evidence based, and that research problems are approached in a community-driven, creative, and human-centred way. 

We seek out opportunities to work on projects that support the building of more effective and just health systems. We partner with like-minded clients like BC’s regional health authorities, the BC Centre for Disease Control, Jhpiego, AlignMNH, and others. And we work with and listen to the communities that will be impacted by these projects to promote better health outcomes for all. 

A still image from “The World We See” animation that we created for Jhpiego’s Women Deliver 2019 Conference.

We use research and community engagement, health expertise, and strategic communication to help our clients push forward solutions to health system challenges in their communities. We also understand that some issues call for different skill sets, so we bring in experts and create a team tailored to each project we take on to make sure that we’re always taking the best approach for the communities that are being served. 

Through each client we work with, we’re part of the movement to create more equitable health systems. 

Some examples of our work to support health equity

Dr. Mathume Joseph Phaahla, South Africa’s Minister of Health, speaks at the International Maternal Newborn Health Conference in Cape Town.

Check out these examples of projects we’ve worked on that address inequities in local, regional, and international health systems. 

  • The International Maternal Newborn Health Conference (IMNHC): According to a 2023 United Nation’s report, over 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or the first weeks after birth — equivalent to 1 death happening every 7 seconds — mostly from preventable or treatable causes if proper care was available.

    One of our biggest projects to date — developing the conference story, theme, brand identity, and website for IMNHC 2023 and supporting it on site — is driven by international goals to improve maternal and newborn survival and prevent stillbirths in a coordinated and inclusive manner. Read about our work with AlignMNH for the IMNHC here
  • Inner City COVID-19 Response Strategy: When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside had already been grappling with the ongoing toxic drug and overdose crisis since 2016. Be the Change Group worked with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), Providence Health Care (PHC), and others to develop some of the resources needed to mitigate the impact of these dual public health emergencies on people living in Vancouver’s inner city. By supporting VCH and its partners with rapid communication and helping to get guidelines out early, we helped health care workers and the community support Vancouver’s priority populations at a critical time. Learn more about this work on our project page.

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