Center for Diversity and Health Equity


Center for Diversity and Health Equity directors from left to right: Alicia Tieder, Kendra Liljenquist and Brian Saelens.

Since 2006, we have been dedicated to reducing health disparities and improving the lives of all patients, families, research participants and the community. Our mission is to prioritize equity by advocating for and facilitating the relentless work toward the recognition and elimination of health inequities for children, families and communities, through an inclusive and anti-racist framework. Our vision is that Seattle Children’s meets the unique needs of children, families and communities to achieve their optimal health and well-being.

What is health equity?

  • Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay; quality education and housing; safe environments; and healthcare.  

    • For the purposes of measurement, health equity means reducing and ultimately eliminating disparities in health and its determinants that adversely affect excluded or marginalized groups.
    • Health equity is the ethical and human rights principle motivating efforts to eliminate health disparities; health disparities are the metric for assessing progress toward health equity (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).
  • Health inequity refers to the uneven distribution of social and economic resources that impact an individual’s health. Inequities often stem from structural racism or the historical disenfranchisement and discrimination of particular groups, including racial and ethnic groups, individuals with lower incomes and members of the LGBTQ community. These groups and many others have been and continue to be withheld from obtaining resources that are needed to be healthy, and are disproportionately exposed to a combination of health risks such as poverty, violence and environmental health hazards. Inequities in health often result in disparities in health outcomes between populations (Adapted from American Public Health Association report Creating the Healthiest Nation: Advancing Health Equity).

    • For example: Access to community/health resources such as limited public transportation routes as a result of redlining in the greater Seattle area.
  • A health disparity exists when an outcome is seen to a greater or lesser extent between populations. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion ( Disparities in health and in the key determinants of health are the metric for assessing progress toward health equity (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).

    • For example: Higher rate of missed appointments for Black and African American patients.
  • Health disparity and health inequality are synonyms; disparity is used more often in the United States, while other countries use inequality. 

      • Health disparities/inequalities are how we measure progress toward health equity. Health equity is the underlying principle that motivates action to eliminate health disparities/inequalities (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). 


  • Our education, analytics and consultation work moves Seattle Children’s towards health equity by identifying and addressing determinants of inequities in health and healthcare within our own system.
  • Our research program moves Seattle Children’s Research Institute towards health equity by creating equitable participation opportunities for diverse communities and equitable career pathways for diverse faculty and staff, and by providing funding support for research projects and research teams that focus on health equity issues.

Health Equity at Seattle Children’s