In the field of health care, vulnerable populations are people considered to being at a greater risk of developing health problems (Sebastian, et al., 2002, p. 349).Limited access to resources, chronic mental illness, incarceration, poverty, marginalized sociocultural status, homelessness, ethnicity and age all contribute to heightened vulnerability (DeChesnay & Anderson, 2012). These attributes that add to vulnerability in populations also serve as impediments to their ability to get access to health care. Reaching out to the vulnerable marginalized and alienated from health care and who are experiencing chronic and terminal illnesses is fundamental to assuring that all people can experience compassionate caring and benefit from palliative care as pointed out in the three core functions of public health.
In bridging the gap created when special vulnerable populations are marginalized, nurses can undertake a myriadof steps which can go towards reducing this gap. These steps can include; first, nurses can identify the special vulnerable and marginalized groups in the community surrounding them, and let the local public health authorities be aware of their existence. This will go towardshelping these groups and is consistent with the assessment core function of public health which involves monitoring the health status and identifying the health issues within the community. This step will also allow for policy development that will target this population.
Secondly, nurses can act as intermediaries between vulnerable marginalized populations and health planners and policy makers. This can be achieved through translating and articulating the health and illness experience of thesepopulations and communities to health planners and policy makers and assist these members of the community to voice their problems and aspirations. This is consistent with the policy development core function of public health.
Thirdly, nurses are knowledgeable about various strategies for intervention that range from those that are applicable to the entire population, to those that are specific to a particular community. To help close the gap, nurses can translate knowledge of the health and social sciences to marginalized vulnerable populations through targeted interventions, policies and advocacy that principally target these populations. This is in line with the assurance function of public health that involves assuring the community that there is a competent public and personal workforce that can link individuals to personal health services and health care.
Fourthly, when nurses are not in a position to close this gap, they can cut the impact that this gap may have on vulnerable populations. This can be achieved through mitigation efforts, predictions and warnings as well as preparedness. They can also build capacities for these groups to withstand and cope with the hazards that they will be exposed to as a corollary of the gap.
Finally, nurses canaddress the root causes of vulnerability in the community, such as, poverty, poor governance, prejudice and discrimination, inequality and lacking access to livelihoods and resources. However, as a strategy, this is more aresponsibility of the federal government as opposed to a public health function.
In conclusion, increasingly the number of special vulnerable populations that are marginalized is growing.Therefore,there arises the need to identify them and provide the needed health care, irrespective of theirspecial individualities. It is the responsibility of every nurse to monitor the health condition of the community around them and identify opportunities to assist the people in that community, as this forms the basic foundation of the nursing profession.
DeChesnay, M., & Anderson, B. A. (2012). Caring for the vulnerable: Perspectives in nursing theory, practice, and research. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Sebastian, J., Bolla, C. D., Aretakis, D., Jones, K. J., Schenk, C., & Napolitano, M. (2002). Vulnerability and selected vulnerable populations. (M. Stanhope, & J. Lancaster, Eds.) Foundations of Community Health Nursing, 349–364.
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