PTTC Post Article - June 2024

The Role of Prevention Science in Advancing Health Equity 

Defining Health Equity 

There is strong empirical evidence demonstrating that health disparities and Social Determinants of Health SDoH) can have a large impact on the health of individuals, families, and society (OHE, 2020). In response, many organizations have been developing and implementing goals and practices to address and advance health equity. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines health equity as “the absence of disparities or avoidable differences among socioeconomic and demographic groups or geographical areas in health status and health outcomes such as disease, disability, or mortality” (HRSA, 2024). Building on more than two decades of research on healthy equity, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) developed a definition of health equity for the Healthy People 2030 campaign: “Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and social determinants of health — and to eliminate disparities in health and health care” (ODHP, 2024). 

Advancing Health Equity - Healthy People 2030 

Healthy People 2030 sets data-driven national objectives to improve health and well-being over the next decade, provides focus on social determinants of health, and outlines leading health indicators and health disparities data along with a listing of evidence-based resources. To guide the work of Healthy People 2030, ODHP published a Health Equity Environmental Scan to report on how health equity and health disparities are defined and communicated within the field of public health (HHS, 2022). These resources are regularly updated and available for use in developing prevention programs, determining impact, addressing health priorities, and identifying the need for further research. 

Advancing Health Equity- The Society for Prevention Research 

The Society for Prevention Research (SPR) is an international, multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to advancing scientific investigation about how to prevent negative outcomes and foster well-being for individuals, families, and communities. Strategic Plan and Goals 2024-2028 for SPR has as one of its goals to Promote Health Equity in Prevention Science. To work toward this goal, SPR commissioned a paper Strategic Directions in Preventive Intervention Research to Advance Health Equity. The paper describes and illustrates strategic approaches for reducing health inequities; advancing health equity; and  applying an equity-focused approach to prevention science evidence-based theory, methodologies, and practices (Boyd et al., 2023). The researchers developed an ecosystemic framework (depicted below) that provides a guide for equity-focused, evidence-based preventive interventions. In conclusion, Boyd et al. developed six recommendations to guide prevention science in advancing health equity. 

Ecosystemic Framework (Boyd, et al.,) 2023 

Advancing Health Equity Recommendations 

  1. Adopt an equity-focused approach for developing new prevention science interventions to advance health equity. 
  1. Refine the Ecosystem Framework depicted above as disparities are addressed, outcomes change, and new information comes to light. 
  1. Develop and implement evidence-based multi-level preventive interventions. 
  1. Establish partnerships with collaborators and policy makers. 
  1. Expand prevention science methodologies and data analytic methods for health equity research. 
  1. Develop and support health equity training programs in prevention science. 

Health Equity Brief 

As a follow-up to the paper, SPR developed a 3-page brief, Achieving Health Equity Through Prevention Science,  that introduces the concepts of health disparities, health inequities, and health equity. It also describes how prevention scientists, community-based organizations, policymakers, and funders can collaborate to support strategies for reducing inequities and improving health. The health equity brief outlines a model and suggested activities for advancing health equity by engaging in prevention at different levels of the social environment: individual and family, community, and societal (SPR, 2024). 

Individual and Family-Implement prevention strategies with individuals, families, and groups (including strategies designed specifically for groups at high risk for experiencing health inequities). 

Community-Educate communities on the value of prevention science; promote partnerships with community members in prevention research and intervention; share and implement prevention strategies that are supported by scientific research. 

Societal-Advocate for laws that provide, protect, and promote the resources that people need to be healthy. 

Prevention Opportunities for Advancing Health Equity  

As we move into the summer months, June provides prevention professionals with two opportunities to advance health equity using Healthy People 2030 resources, SPR recommendations, and other resources. 

Celebrate Pride 

Each June, communities and organizations across the country participate in LGBTQI+  Pride programs, activities, and celebrations.  The Center of Excellence on LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is designed to support the implementation of change strategies within mental health and substance use disorder treatment systems to address disparities impacting the LGBTQ+ community. The Center of Excellence provides resources, webinars, and a newsletter on LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity . 

Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE) at SAMHSA  advances behavioral health equity by reducing disparities in racial, ethnic, LGBTQIA+, and other under-resourced communities across the country. It seeks to improve access to quality services and supports that enable all to thrive, participate, and contribute to healthier communities. Sign up for SAMHSA Newsroom and email updates. 

World Drug Day 

The United Nations (UN) sponsors an annual World Drug Day each year on June 26 with the aim to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse. The 2024 theme is “The evidence is clear: invest in prevention.” The campaign recognizes that effective drug policies must be rooted in science, research, full respect for human rights, compassion, and a deep understanding of the social, economic, and health implications of drug use. 


Boyd, R. C., Castro, F. G., Finigan-Carr, N., Okamoto, S. K., Barlow, A., Kim, B.-K. E., Lambert, S., Lloyd, J., Zhang, X., Barksdale, C. L., Crowley, D. M., Maldonado-Molina, M., Obasi, E. M., & Kenney, A. (2023). Strategic directions in preventive intervention research to advance health equity. Prevention Science, 24(4), 577–5961 

Society for Prevention Research. (2024). Achieving health equity through prevention science. Society for Prevention Research. This brief is based on Boyd, R. C. et al. (2023). Strategic directions in preventive intervention research to advance health equity. Prevention Science, 24, 577-596. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Health Equity. (2020). Health equity report 2019-2020: special feature on housing and health inequalities. Rockville, MD.  

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Health Equity. (2020). What is health equity?  

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2022). Health equity and health disparities environmental scan. Rockville, MD. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2024). Healthy People 2030. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Copyright © 2024 Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Network