Vulnerable Populations

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Healthcare disparities generally refers to differences in the quality of health care across individuals or groups in regard to access, treatment options, and preventative services. Vulnerability as a concept originated from a variety of disciplines, including economics, sociology, anthropology, and environmental science. Segments of the global population experience social inequalities and are at risk for poor health outcomes. Nurse practitioners are keenly aware that any individual can become vulnerable at any point in their life. However, it is well documented in the literature that health outcomes and vulnerability fall along a social gradient and that poorer people experience poorer health (Grabovschi, Loignon, & Fortin, 2013; Marmot, 2005). This global phenomenon is seen in low-, middle-, and high-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been bringing to the forefront a sense of urgency for healthcare leaders to address health inequities across the globe. Health inequities or disparities refers to systematic gaps in health outcomes between different groups of people that are judged to be avoidable and therefore are considered unfair and unjust. It is the inherent human right to primary, secondary, and tertiary medical care, food, housing, and other resources. Primary care nurse practitioners with a strong educational base have a longstanding commitment to cultural competence and social justice. As integral members of the healthcare delivery team, NPs are well positioned for leadership roles in addressing the gaps in health prevention and treatment, and to highlight certain groups as vulnerable populations and attempt to build an understanding of the needs within the various groups.


Chapter in Role Development for the Nurse Practitioner, 3rd ed.

ISBN 9781284234305 (paperback); 9781284238617 (ebook)

The full text ebook is available to authorized Sacred Heart University users.