Understanding the language of EDI

Equality and specifically ‘equality of opportunity’ was the common phrase used in the 60s, 70s and 80s when the focus was mainly on employment issues and making sure all candidates were treated equally in the recruitment process.

In the 90s ‘diversity’ increasingly became part of the vocabulary as people began to recognise the significance of difference and realise that treating everyone equally was not the answer to eliminating the inequalities that continued to endure for some minority groups.

In recent years, as the importance of reaching out to these minority groups to engage them in dialogue about the issues they face has been recognised, ‘inclusion’ is often being used to describe the approach required. 

It is on this basis that within the Trust we are now increasingly using ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ to describe our work on this agenda. However, as the legislation that sets the minimum expectations for public bodies like the Trust is the Equality Act 2010, there will still be times when it may be relevant for us to refer to ‘equalities’ when talking about this agenda.

In the past, terms like ‘hard to reach’ and ‘seldom heard’ were used to describe those communities that tend not to engage with health services on a regular basis and hence continue to experience health inequalities. However, it is being recognised that using such language to describe these groups is misleading. It infers that it is somehow their fault that they do not address their health inequalities by accessing the relevant health services at the appropriate time.

It is increasingly accepted that it is the responsibility of health services to reach out to these groups to help them get a better understanding of the types of health conditions they may experience so that they can take action earlier to improve their health. The benefit for health services from this proactive approach comes when people in these communities start to manage such conditions and hence access health services for treatment at an early stage via primary care and outpatient services with a resultant decrease in acute and emergency episodes which are more costly.

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