What is vulnerability? Merriam- Webster defines vulnerable as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.” In my opinion, we are all vulnerable by that definition. In healthcare, vulnerable populations are considered those who cannot advocate for their needs or well-being. For example, children, members of the LGBTQ community, prisoners, ethnic minorities, impoverished, and physically or mentally impaired would all be considered vulnerable. (Falkner, 2018). Children, in my opinion, are the most vulnerable because they lack decision making skills and autonomy to advocate for their needs or health care decisions. Children must count on the adults around them to make these decisions for them and unfortunately, some adults take advantage of this vulnerability. As healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to advocate for our patients even and especially when their caregivers are making decisions that will cause them harm. This is a slippery slope as choices such as refusal of vaccinations or life- saving blood products (because of religion) is a protected right. Ethics committees and judicial members are often tasked to intervene in life-saving decisions when the child’s best interest is at risk. So, I beg the very controversial question, how much longer will we continue to watch children die from vaccine- preventable illnesses until the government intervenes?
Falkner, A. (2018). Community as Client. In Community & public health: The future of health care. Retrieved from https://lc.gcumedia.com/nrs427vn/community-and-public-health-the-future-of-health-care/v1.1/
“Vulnerable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vulnerable.
There are many different groups of people who are categorized as vulnerable population such as racial and ethnic minorities, the economically disadvantaged, those with chronic health conditions, those who live in rural areas and the elderly (AMJC, 2018). These vulnerable populations health and healthcare problems are often worsened by social factors. They may experience greater risk factors, worse access to care, and increased morbidity and mortality with the general population.
The economically disadvantaged is one group of the vulnerable population as they are at risk for poor health status and access to healthcare. They experience significant disparities in life expectancy, access and utilization of healthcare, morbidity and mortality. In general, low-income individuals are more likely to have chronic illnesses, and the impact of these illnesses can be more severe, individuals with low incomes are also disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities. These low income people may be less like to have health insurance coverage or may be underinsured and as a result they have less interaction with the healthcare system as stated by Pamella Riley, MD, vice president of delivery system reform at The Commonwealth Fund (AJMC, 2018). These individuals are more likely to behavioral health issues such as depression, substance abuse problem and chronic medical conditions like obesity or diabetes.
Numerous efforts are been made to reduce the disparities in healthcare. Persons who are poorer often are stigmatized and not given the chance to express themselves and they are often unaware of the community healthcare resources available to them. The community health nurse comes in contact with these persons and he/she will assess these individuals and identify their needs, make necessary referrals, raise awareness, provide education and put guideline in place with the help of other health professionals and stakeholders (Waisel, 2013). Patients can be educated on how to prevent diseases and maintain the best possible health even if they are poor. The nurse should remain non-judgmental, be culturally aware, show respect to all patients when giving care regardless of race or social status.
Joszt, L. (2018). 5 Vulnerable populations in healthcare. American Journal of Management Care. Retrieved from https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/5-vulnerable-populations-in-healthcare
Waisel, D. B. (2013). Vulnerable populations in healthcare. Current opinion in anesthesiology 26(2) p186-192.
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23385323/