Skip Global navigation and goto content

Office of Health Equity

Florida Department of Health - Hillsborough County

“If the weakest of us are not healthy, then we are not a strong community.”—unknown

The Office of Health Equity is part of the Community Health Division in the Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough County.

Our goal is for all of Hillsborough County to achieve optimal health where we live, learn, work, play, and socialize. Through our programs and services, we strive to assure all of Hillsborough County has access and opportunity to achieve full health potential by addressing the social determinants of health through policy, system and environmental changes, as well as assessment and education.

What is health equity?

“Health equity is achieving the highest level of health for all people.” – Healthy People 2020

“Equity in health implies that ideally everyone could attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance. This refers to everyone and not just to a particularly disadvantaged segment of the population. Efforts to promote social equity in health are therefore aimed at creating opportunities and removing barriers to achieving the health potential of all people. It involves the fair distribution of resources needed for health, fair access to the opportunities available, and fairness in the support offered to people when ill.” – World Health Organization

Equity can be achieved through policies, systems and the built environment structures that give individuals the opportunity to achieve optimal health, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, education level, income, disability and where they live.

Why does place matter?

The conditions where we live, work, learn and play are called the “social determinants of health”, the factors that decide health equity and affect health outcomes. These conditions impact our health by limiting or promoting healthy behaviors such as taking the stairs and eating well, by encouraging risky or protective factors such as smoking vs. not smoking, and by prohibiting or allowing access to quality jobs, health care, education, safe places to be active, healthy food markets and other conditions  that impact our health.

When conditions are inequitable, limit healthy behaviors, encourage risky choices, and restrict access to jobs, health care and other services, individuals are consequently limited in the choices they can make and the ability to improve their situation. Continued exposure to these unhealthy conditions, or health inequities, over the life course often leads to poorer health outcomes, or health disparities, among poor and disadvantaged individuals, families and communities. 

What do these differences look like?

Equitable Conditions


Inequitable Conditions


The closest supermarket is easy to access (safe neighborhood to walk through, adequate sidewalks and crosswalks) and has quality, affordable food (fresh fruits and vegetables at a fair going rate)


The closest supermarket is hard to get to (must walk to the bus stop and take two buses, or walk a mile and a half on dangerous roads) and has limited quality, affordable food items (no fresh fruits and vegetables or high prices, most options are processed and not fresh)

Can easily find a doctor who speaks your language and can see you after work


Difficulty finding a doctor who understands your language or culture, and has limited office hours

Your street is a safe place for your children to play outside with their friends. You feel safe walking around your neighborhood.


You are afraid of letting your children play outside because there is a lot of gang and drug activity on your street. You go outside as little as possible.

Other Examples of Conditions that Impact Health Equity: 

  • Availability of resources to meet daily needs (e.g., safe housing and local healthy food markets)
  • Access to quality educational, economic, and job opportunities
  • Access to health care services
  • Transportation and public safety
  • Opportunities for recreational and leisure-time activities
  • Environmental factors (e.g. air quality, safe drinking water)
  • Social norms and attitudes (e.g., discrimination, racism, and distrust of government)
  • Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder (e.g., presence of trash and lack of cooperation in a community)
  • Socioeconomic conditions (e.g., concentrated poverty and the stressful conditions that accompany it)

How does this impact health?

Conditions that are inequitable can lead to health disparities in a population.

How does our office try to reduce health inequities?

Our office executes programs, services and policy changes to understand and reduce health disparities in our community through the programs and services listed below. These programs are designed to improve health equity by expanding access to populations with limited or reduced resources.

  • Community Health Assessments and Improvement Planning
    • Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan
      • Help determine the health status, health needs and health inequities among Hillsborough County residents. This information shapes improvement planning decisions by determining health priorities and corresponding programs and services to meet those needs and make conditions more equitable.
    • Health Impact Assessments
      • Identify possible positive and negative health effects of a proposed plan, policy, or program, and whether they would impact any groups disproportionately.
  • Policy, System and Environmental Changes
    • Health in All Policies
      • Supports cross-sector collaboration to include health in decision making and policy creation.
    • Community Engagement Initiative
      • Special collaboration between the Department, University of South Florida and community-based organizations.
    • Local Tobacco and Smoke-Free Policies
      • Among participating agencies, create the conditions for tobacco and smoke free places that are healthier for all users.
    • Baby Café
      • Provides free breastfeeding support in access-limited communities to ensure fair opportunities to mothers.
  • Partnerships to Support Provision of Services
    • School-Based Sealant Program
      • Provides access to dental screenings and sealants to second grade students in all Title I schools in Hillsborough
    • Community Dental Program
      • Provides access to dental services for pregnant women, women who are six months post-partum and children under age 21 at community locations.
    • Title X Family Planning Program
      • Provides income-based family planning services to males and females, regardless of ability to pay
    • Sterilization Program
      • Provides income-based sterilization information and services to men and women
    • Healthy Start
      • The Department collects pre-natal and infant screenings for all mothers who participate, and ensures all clients requesting service are referred for follow up.

Information about health outcomes in Hillsborough County can be found at Florida CHARTS.