‘Promoting Health and Equity’ is the theme of the 22nd International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) World Conference on Health Promotion taking place in Curitiba, Brazil, on May 22–26, 2016 (1). Some may say that as themes go, this one is tired, even stale, and that we could have chosen something more contemporary and more in step with current challenges faced by health promotion, such as the impact of climate change or the role of emerging technology. To such contentions I would respond that at this time, there is no more pressing issue for health promotion than that of promoting equity. I offer three arguments in defence of this choice. Firstly, the social inequalities that underpin health inequity are not disappearing; they are growing. Secondly, while the promotion of health equity has achieved a certain level of popularity in the field of public health, commitment to addressing the issue remains fragile. Thirdly, the public health engagement toward addressing the social determinants of health is increasingly being called into question by governments – re-centring this fundamental objective is therefore a matter of survival.