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Running head: Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities Paper

Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities


Karen Theus
Nursing 340
Ferris State University

Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities


Vulnerable Population
A vulnerable population can be defined as a social group that is at risk for or susceptible
to adverse health outcomes (Harkness & Demarco, 2012). According to Harkness & Demarco,
2012 Race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, geography, gender, age, disability status, risk
status related to sex and gender, and among other populations identified as at-risk for health
disparities (p. 335). These groups can be defined as the poor, gays and lesbians, immigrants,
non- white Americans, prisoners, and those infected with HIV, just to name a few. Factors that
contribute to making them vulnerable are limited resources, lack of insurance, and health
professional bias thinking.
Immigrants as a Vulnerable Population
I chose to focus on, immigrants as a vulnerable population because with lack of
appropriate resources I can see how this population can be greatly affected. Immigrants are
considered to be a vulnerable population for many reasons. When I speak of immigrants I refer to
those in the United States illegally. Immigrants do not have health insurance, lack education, are
non- English speaking, mostly poor, and live in poor conditions. In my opinion they are mostly
Hispanic culture crossing the border illegally and have children here so they can become
citizens. Immigrants are not only at risk for health disparities, but can be a risk to the public
with untreated illness or disease.
My attitude towards the immigrant population is mixed. As an American citizen I feel
why do we need to care for immigrants that are in the United States illegally; why not just deport
them? I feel they put a strain our economy and public funds, do not pay taxes, and use up
available resources. Health care for immigrants can be long, complicated, and complex due to
the fact care is avoided until it was unmanageable, and they do not speak English. Extra

Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities


resources and time is needed to obtain interpreters, and unnecessary testing to find cause of
illness. As a nurse I took an oath to provide fair and equal treatment that respects the inherent
dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or
economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of the health problem (ANA, 2001). So I have
to try to treat all patients without bias feelings.
Demographics
As of March 2010, an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants were living in
the United States, a figure equivalent to 3.7% of the nations population (Gusmano, 2012). This
does not include expired visas. This number has also declined due to a bad economy. The
undocumented immigrant population in the United States is disproportionately male. Men
between the ages of 18 and 39 make up 35% of the undocumented immigrant population
(Gusmano, 2012). Immigrants live in all states but more than half live in New York, California,
Texas and New York. According to (Gusmano, 2012) 80% of the undocumented immigrants in
the U.S. emigrated from Latin American countries and others are from China, El Salvador,
Guatemala, and the Philippines. Immigrants come to the U.S. to find work and escape harsh
living conditions. Even as immigrants they find work in construction, maintenance, grounds
keeping, house cleaning, food service, and farming. In 2007, the median annual household
income of undocumented immigrants was $36,000, compared with $50,000 for people born in
the U.S. (Gusmano, 2012). Generally immigrants are paid less, and do not have health coverage
or qualify for any other benefits, so employees will hire illegally. Immigrants tend to have two
parent homes, hard working, and lower education level. Immigrants are not entitled to health
coverage but can be treated in the emergency room.
Reflection

Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities


Researching this topic changes my opinion on illegal immigrants and health. As a nurse I
must provide equal care to all patients. I guess I would have to look at the fact that illegal
immigrants are working and providing a service to the public for lower pay. I just feel it needs to
be more available staff or special clinic that caters to these patients. I look at the fact health care
needs of illegal immigrants need to be addressed. When the federal government is spending
thousands of dollars on these patients in the emergency room, we may as well help them before
they get to a complicated state.
Conclusion
Knowledge of bias can affect the care in patients in many different ways. The
thoroughness of care, follow up, medication ordered, delivery of care, instruction and education,
conflict of interest, and how time is spent with the patient. As nurses there is much we can do to
advocate for at risk and vulnerable populations. Assisting in the planning of policy and
procedures, nurses lobbying for heath care, and supporting universal health care can help at risk
populations. The Affordable Care Act was established to decrease some of these biases; initiated
by Bill Clinton and carried out by President Obama. The goal of the patient choice now referred
to as Affordable Care Act was to expand coverage, improving quality, lowering cost, honoring
patient choice, and holding insurance companies accountable (Kakasuleff, 2009). Healthy
People was also established to address health disparities and improve care in those areas.
I feel these programs are raising the publics awareness as well as addressing some of the
health care issues. Knowledge of bias in vulnerable population can improve public policies by
using evidence based facts to change health care practices and standardize health care. The
knowledge of bias can also be used to improve laws that affect vulnerable populations; for
instance legalizing gay marriage so the spouse can receive benefits, or the hiring of felons.

Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities


Approving federal funds for tighter border control or helping other countries with resources, and
reviewing immigration laws. Before writing this paper I never knew how it a so many laws can
affect us as health care workers, and I can see myself voting for laws differently.

Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Disparities


References
American Nurses Association. (2001). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements.
Washington, DC: Nursesbooks.org.
Gusmano K.L. (2012) Undocumented immigrants in the United States: Demographics and
socioeconomic status. Undocumented Patients web site. Garrison, NY: The Hastings
Center last updated: February 14, 2012. Retrieved from
http://www.undocumentedpatients.org/issuebrief/demographics-and-socioeconomicstatus/
Harkness, G.A., DeMarco, R.F. (2012). Community and public health nursing practice: Evidence
for practice. Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia
Kakasuleff, J. (2009). Health care reform series: The affordable health choices Act. N.p.:
Examiner.com. Retrieved July 20, 2014, from http://www.examiner.com/article/healthcare-reform-series-the-affordable-health-choices-act