Key Terms

The following are working definitions that reflect what Partners for Health Foundation means when we say:

Accurately Resourced – Organizations will work collaboratively and in partnership with the Foundation to best determine the specific needs that will be met or addressed through our support/financial support. The grantee and the Foundation work together to ensure they are in dialogue before and throughout the funding cycle to identify the resources that will directly support the desired outcomes. The grantee will confirm that the resources provided fill the gaps and that adequate resources exist to build capacity and sustain the work.

Anti-racism – Practicing anti-racism is the intentional work of identifying and dismantling policies, practices, cultural norms, values, and behaviors that represent and uphold the supremacy of “whiteness” and replacing these with practices, policies, values, and standards that ensure access, freedom, voice, authenticity, and liberation for people of color.  Active anti-racism requires our consistent intention, analysis, and action rooted in an understanding of historical and contemporary expressions of power, policy, and practice.

Capacity Building – GEO Strong programs exist in strong organizations, and the strongest nonprofits are adaptable and resilient. They have effective leaders, good financial management, the ability to collaborate with others, and the space to plan, execute and assess new strategies. Capacity building is what allows nonprofits to build these skills and expertise — and more — so that they have what it takes to tackle deep-rooted problems.

Collective Voice – is allowing others to step up and then to step back, while understanding that a collective voice does not indicate a consensus. There is no “single authority,” but rather a “collective responsibility.”

Community – A group of people who are located in a specific geographic area, or a group of people who share a common identity or characteristic, but who may not be located in a single geographic area. (ChangeLab Solutions: A Blueprint for Changemakers

Community Voice – In this instance, the voice of community members who disproportionately experience health inequities. Health equity issues can be identified and solutions can be found within the communities in which they occur. 

Constituents – Constituents are defined as people who benefit from the services provided by an organization. 

Partners for Health agrees with The Meyer Foundation, which uses the term constituents often, as below in a message to their grantees.

The term “Constituents” refers to the people most directly impacted by the systems your organization’s work seeks to change. Your constituents have the most to gain or lose from the outcomes of your organization’s work. Using this term rather than clients, participants, or beneficiaries is intended to communicate the knowledge, power, and value of those most affected by inequities and recognizes the need for their leadership to create lasting change. (The Meyer Foundation)

Climate – Climate and culture are often seen together. However, the two terms are quite different. Climate is how individuals and groups perceive and feel about the environment where they live, work, and learn. The climate also speaks to the sense of inclusion and belonging one may experience in formal and informal decision-making processes, leadership, community engagement, or organizational operations.

Culture – Embraces the overall experiences of an individual or group rooted in shared collective norms, values, and beliefs. The patterns of daily life are learned consciously and unconsciously by a group of people. These patterns are prevalent in language, governing practices, arts, customs, holiday celebrations, food, religion, dating rituals, and clothing, to name a few.

Diversity – A simple representation of different types of people (by gender, race, ability, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression and many other social identities) in a community or organization. Thus, an individual is not diverse; a group of people is diverse. Diversity often focuses on the differences between and among ALL people and is referred to as “the mix.”

Empowerment – Is the agency and self-determination individuals have in communities. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. Their agency and self-determination enable them to represent their interests responsibly, acting on their own authority. These individuals have what is necessary to thrive and succeed without the burden or thought of anyone removing the conditions for prosperity.

Health – Health is a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual, cultural and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (World Health Organization). 

Partners for Health Foundation acknowledges that health needs evolve over the course of a lifetime.

Health Equity – Health equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification. (WHO)

Other valuable definitions include that of Paula Braveman: “Health equity is the principle underlying a commitment to reduce—and, ultimately, eliminate—disparities in health and in its determinants, including social determinants.”   (American Medical Association: Advancing Health Equity Guide)

Health for All – Is only achieved with an intentional effort to eliminate the systems and policies that support health inequities. 

Health Inequities – A measurable, systemic, avoidable and unjust difference in health care access, utilization, quality and outcomes between groups, stemming from differences in levels of social advantage and disadvantage. (American Medical Association: Advancing Health Equity Guide) The goal for Partners for Health Foundation is to learn which communities are not thriving because their needs are not being adequately addressed, and to find ways to change the distribution of healthy environments, economic resources and opportunities through new and improved policies, practices and systems.

Inclusion – The deliberate process of seeking and welcoming diversity in a community or organization by creating an environment or system (policies, practices, norms, behaviors, values, reward) where all kinds of people experience a sense of value and belonging and can thrive and succeed. Inclusion is the intentional process of creating the conditions to “make the mix work.”

Justice – Is often defined as “fairness” or “equal treatment.” However, the concept of justice appears complex. What an individual considers just is shaped not only by personal characteristics (such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status) but also by the time and communities and neighborhoods they live, work, and learn. Justice requires meaningful and thoughtful dialogue, policies, and practices considering injustice’s current and historical implications. (Adapted from the University of Albany – Justice Institute)

Learning – Partners for Health Foundation will prioritize learning in order to inform our priorities and work plans. We recognize the need to build relationships with and learn from communities that have been marginalized and under-resourced. We will also engage with safety-net service providers, and those who develop and administer policies, protocols and practices that drive health outcomes.

Lived Experience – Lived experience refers to a representation of the experiences of a given person, and the knowledge that they gain from these experiences. People with lived experience provide an authentic perspective that contributes to a deeper and richer understanding of service gaps. Lasting transformation occurs when these wise voices are welcomed, heard and acted upon.

Policy, systems and environmental change – Policy, systems and environmental change (PSE) is a way of modifying policies, organizational and governmental protocols, and the built and social environments to make healthy choices practical and available to all community members. 

Privilege – Is an inherited legacy of unearned advantages and conferred dominance and power based on social identity. Privilege exists when a group of people has access to something of value that is denied to others simply because of the social groups they belong to rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Privilege exists and is perpetuated through social systems and our participation in these social systems.

Psychological Safety – Is critical for teams and the people who lead them. Psychological safety is a shared belief held by a group or team members that it’s necessary to take risks, express their ideas and concerns, speak up with questions, and admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences. It shapes the learning behavior of the group and, in turn, affects team performance and, therefore, organizational performance. (

Social Determinants of Health – Refer to the underlying community-wide social, economic and physical conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. They affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. These determinants and their unequal distribution according to socially defined circumstances, result in differences in health status between population groups that are avoidable and unfair. (American Medical Association: Advancing Health Equity Guide)

Social Determinants of Health Inequities Refer to the connection between social determinants of health and place-specific levels of health inequities. This acknowledges that while underlying community-wide social, economic and physical conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age affect individual level health, they also influence patterns of health inequities within and between communities. (American Medical Association: Advancing Health Equity Guide)

Structural Inequities – Are the personal, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic drivers—such as racism, sexism, classism, able-ism, xenophobia, and homophobia—that make those identities salient to the fair distribution of health opportunities and outcomes. Segregation and the disenfranchisement of Black Americans that continued after slavery was formally abolished is one of the starkest examples of structural inequality in the U.S.

Systemic Oppression/Inequities – A series of barriers that disadvantage particular groups of people based on race, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, age, social economic status, education, language,  or other social identities. Systemic oppression is often made invisible to those who don’t experience it.

Systems Change – Partners for Health agrees with The Meyer Foundation, which defines systems change as challenging and changing the policies, practices, priorities, and culture that created and perpetuate the structural inequities.

A change in organizational or legislative policies or in environmental supports that encourages and channels improvement(s) in systems, community, and individual-level health outcomes. (CDC)

Thriving – A thriving community is a place where all people have access to good jobs and schools, affordable housing, reliable transportation, healthy food, and comprehensive healthcare. Residents feel safe as they move throughout the community and know that they are well represented within municipal councils and departments. (Change Lab Solutions)

We gratefully acknowledge Elizabeth Williams-Riley of D.A.S.H. Consulting LLC who compiled many of these definitions for Partners for Health.