Advancing Equity at HHS

HHS is committed to addressing inequities and advancing equity through assessing and changing policies, programs, and processes across the Department. Additionally, HHS is working to shift the culture, resources, and approaches to institutionalize and sustain a focus on equity over time.

HHS Equity Action Plan

HHS Equity Action Plan thumbnail image

The Department's plan highlights five illustrative areas to advance equity. The Department is engaged in comprehensive work beyond those mentioned in the plan, to ensure equity is a central component of policy and programmatic decision-making:

  1. Nondiscrimination in HHS: Civil Rights Protections and Language Access
  2. Acquisitions
  3. Grants
  4. Capacity Building
  5. Maternal Mortality

Read the action plan

Select Equity Actions from 2021

Conducted equity assessments

Since the release of Executive Order 13985 on January 20, 2021, four HHS offices have conducted pilot equity assessments examining equity in their respective programs and policies related to:

  • administered grants
  • contracting
  • postpartum care
  • Benefit Enrollment Centers connecting Medicare beneficiaries with limited incomes to needed benefits

These efforts were used as an opportunity to test what equity assessment methods and approaches are viable across HHS and identify what is necessary to institutionalize robust equity assessments into our policy, program, and process decision-making.

Established the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE)

In August 2021. OCCHE addresses the impact of climate change on the health of the American people and serves as a department-wide hub for climate change and health policy, programming, and analysis, in pursuit of environmental justice and equitable health outcomes.

Developed the Minority Health Social Vulnerability Index

In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HHS Office of Minority Health partnered to develop the Minority Health Social Vulnerability Index, which enhances existing resources to support the identification of racial and ethnic communities at the greatest risk for disproportionate impact and adverse outcomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increased engagement with individuals directly affected by HHS policy and programs

As directed by EO 13995, HHS established the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which included 12 non-federal members representing a diversity of expertise and lived experience. 

Future Listening Sessions

HHS is interested in engaging with our partners and the public to receive feedback on our equity action plan and hear of other opportunities to advance opportunity using HHS programs and policies. Please stay tuned for additional information on HHS listening sessions on equity.

Equity Initiatives across the Department

HHS Strategic Plan 2022 – 2026

The HHS Strategic Plan includes a strategic goal on equity and a cross-cutting principle to apply equity and inclusion throughout the plan.

CDC CORE Health Equity Science and Intervention Strategy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched an agency-wide strategy that aims to integrate health equity into the fabric of all of their work.

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) issued a request for information on the development of a 2022 Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan.


The National Institutes of Health UNITE initiative was established to identify and address structural racism within the NIH-supported and the greater scientific community.

ACF Equity in Action

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is making equity a central part of how to deliver on their mission, including how to provide safe, appropriate, and affirming care to LGBTQI+ youth involved with the child welfare system.

National Minority Health Month

This April the theme is Give Your Community a Boost! focusing on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination, which is one of the strongest tools we can use to protect communities from COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected communities of color.

Office of Rural Health Policy

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) works to increase access to care for underserved people in rural communities through grant programs and public partnerships.

Section 1557 – Prohibiting Discrimination

The Office of Civil Rights issued a Notification of Interpretation and Enforcement on section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

CMS Office of Minority Health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have several initiatives to eliminate disparities in health care quality and access and issued a call to action to the health care industry to address systemic inequities.

About HHS’s Health Disparities Council and Equity Team

The HHS Health Disparities Council is the Department’s coordinating and advisory body on health, health disparities, and health equity for racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved and marginalized populations. The Council is co-chaired by the Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), with executive director support from the Office of Minority Health (OMH). All divisions across HHS are represented on the Health Disparities Council and help to steer the Department’s work on equity. The agency’s equity team is a group comprised of leadership and staff from OASH, ASPE, and OMH, who plan activities of the Health Disparities Council, coordinate equity work across human services, public health, and health in the Department, and support the implementation of equity-related directives at HHS. The equity team also coordinates equity-focused resources and learning sessions for HHS staff, with the goal of engaging all staff in the work of removing barriers and advancing equity for all.

About Executive Order 13985

On the first day of the Biden-Harris Administration, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” The Executive Order calls for a whole-of-government approach to advancing equity and opportunity in government practices, including: management; policymaking (including through regulation and guidance); procurement, contracting, and budgeting; delivery of benefits and services; and data collection, reporting, and use, to tangibly improve the lives of every person across the nation. The term ‘equity’ means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.

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