When it comes to working across cultures, language, imagery and semantics are important. They all go a long way in revealing bias and core assumptions.
We can see this dynamic very clearly with underserved patient populations, where assumptions of “normal” on the part of care providers very frequently result in services that are delivered in a way that is disconnected from how patients actually wish to receive care. The problem isn’t the initial disconnect, but rather, the provider’s inability to ask the right questions or capture the right data in order to improve care.
One very important semantic difference lies between the term “health disparities” and “health equity.” Both are relevant to the idea that certain populations receive significant difference in health outcomes, however they each imply a different framing of the problem. Dr. Kenneth Smith of the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities at University of Texas Medical Branch was kind enough to walk through both concept and explain the difference between the two.