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All populations have some risk, but risks for multiple illness conditions and premature death are much higher for specific populations. Community health nurses need to explore the multiple factors that contribute to health disparities among vulnerable portions of the population. Vulnerability is the predisposition or susceptibility to injury, illness, or premature death. To improve health status and reduce risk in high-risk populations, nurses must work with communities to identify and change, where possible, the factors that contribute to the populations’ vulnerability (Maurer & Smith 2013 paga 398).
The awareness of groups “at risk” for poor health differs from vulnerable populations. “A population at risk is a population with common identified risk factor exposure that poses a threat to health (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014 pg 189). For instance, a population at risk for cardiovascular disease consists of all adults who are overweight and hypertensive. A population at risk is characterized by homogeneously high level of exposure to a single risk factor and all individuals in an “at risk” group can potentially develop an adverse health condition due to some risk factor. For example, smoking, which places all smokers at risk for developing lung cancer.
A vulnerable population is a “subgroup of the population that is more likely to develop health conditions for which they are at risk, which makes them more vulnerable” (Stanhope & Lancaster). For example, an individual with chronic condition such as cancer may already have difficulty managing his/her condition and have less physical ability to cope with stress than someone without such condition, thus putting them at risk for developing other comorbidities. Therefore, vulnerability results from the combined effects of limited resources, which create a more hazardous situation (Stanhope & Lancaster.
Living in a community with limited resources affects vulnerability in many ways. Those who are poor are faced with many risk factors that cause chronic stress. For Example, violence, barriers to health care and bills. Thus impacting their abilities to effectively respond to stressful situations. Lack of knowledge, resources, skills and language barriers can further negatively impact the ability to overcome stress producing situations. The goal for nurse is to represent vulnerable population and help them solve problems and develop solutions for their situations. For example, elderly groups, they are vulnerable to emotional, physical health and socioeconomic problems. Those who are mentally and physically disable and do not speak English and are financially burden all need assistance to at take advantage of and utilize services and programs that may benefit them. In the role of advocacy, nurses should collaborate with the elderly and develop understanding of their values and perception and help the achieve independence through effective education and access to resources.
Maurer, F., Smith, C. (201). Community/Public Health Nursing Practice, 5th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from http://evolveebooks.elsevier.com/#/books/978-1-4557-0762-1/
Stanhope, M. & Lancaster, J. (2014). Public Health Nursing: Population-Centered care in the community (8th ed). Retrieved from
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The concept of vulnerability in healthcare refers to a subgroup of the population that is at a higher risk of developing health conditions for which they are at risk, making them more vulnerable. In contrast, a population at risk is characterized by a high level of exposure to a single risk factor, and all individuals within that population have the potential to develop an adverse health condition. Understanding and identifying vulnerable populations is crucial for community health nurses to effectively address health disparities and work towards improving health outcomes.
One of the key factors contributing to vulnerability is limited resources within the community. Individuals who are economically disadvantaged face numerous risk factors that often lead to chronic stress, such as violence, lack of access to healthcare, and financial burdens. These stressors can impair their ability to effectively respond to stressful situations. Additionally, the lack of knowledge, resources, skills, and language barriers can further hinder these individuals in overcoming stress-producing situations.
As healthcare professionals, nurses have an essential role in advocating for vulnerable populations. This involves collaborating with individuals and groups, such as the elderly or those with physical or mental disabilities, to understand their values, perceptions, and needs. By providing effective education, access to resources, and support, nurses can empower these individuals to achieve independence and improve their overall health outcomes.
In conclusion, vulnerability in healthcare is a result of limited resources and various risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing health conditions. Community health nurses must work together with vulnerable populations to identify and address the factors contributing to their vulnerability. By advocating for and supporting these individuals, nurses can help improve their health status and reduce the associated risks.