A New Health Equity Graphic from RWJF

December 21, 2022 by Chaya Merrill, DrPH

For those of us working in the space of health equity, we have relied on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) equity graphic – the bike visual – to help us explain the difference between equality and equity.  RWJF uses simple language that helps distinguish the two concepts: “equality” being giving everyone the same exact thing regardless of their needs while “equity” focuses on giving people what they specifically need to succeed. “Equity” is a more nuanced concept that acknowledges that people have different needs based on so many factors: their genetics, their environment, their socioeconomic group, and more. The RWJF graphic became very popular and led to many meaningful discussions – including the thought that the graphic didn’t work well for everyone. RWJF took this feedback to heart and decided to refresh the graphic. Below is the original RWJF graphic – it is one that I have used probably 100 times in my conversations around equity.

RWJF surveyed the community to gather perspectives on their original bike graphic. The survey results led them to create both an updated bike graphic and a graphic based on an entirely new concept, which uses a curb to visualize the issue and introduces different characteristics of individuals and their environments. Their goal was to offer a graphic that depicted a more real-world situation. Both graphics are below.

As RWJF’s graphic artist, Joan Barlow, has noted: good design advances conversations and makes choices clearer. I applaud RWJF for giving us the artwork to have meaningful discussions that lead to change.

About the author

Chaya Merrill, DrPH

Director of Child Health Data Lab within the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital