Public Health and Vulnerable Populations

Vulnerable populations include racial minorities, people of low socioeconomic status, people who practice certain religions, those with certain medical conditions, being of young or old age, and others. Any member of a vulnerable population is faced with barriers to healthcare. Barriers may be access to transportation, funds, need for additional accommodations, or language differences. Lack of money poses a barrier especially in this country because people who do not have the means to pay for healthcare will not be able to seek the resources they need for their healthcare. Additionally, not having reliable, consistent transportation could be a reason, for example, someone is not able to have their long term dialysis or chemotherapy routinely. Another influence of vulnerability is healthcare facilities not having the resources or education to be inclusive of different cultures. Cultural differences heavily influence vulnerability and marginalization due to lack of understanding. Not having the knowledge about differing cultural practices prevents inclusive healthcare from being provided to all patients. An interesting point I heard made the other day was that Muslims may not seek healthcare as the gowns provided in hospitals are not modest enough for their cultural preferences. This would certainly pose a dilemma and prevent these patients from receiving the care they need.

I think one of the most important things healthcare facilities can do is to have translators available and educate the staff about using them with patients who speak different languages. Communication between the patient and care team is key to providing care that the patient both desires and needs. Due to cultural differences, a patient may not want certain treatments, so it is important for the care team to be able to fully communicate the options and include the patient in their care planning. For the portion of the population who cannot afford the hefty costs that come with healthcare today, free clinics for vaccines, physical exams, etc. could be life changing. Another way we could help break down barriers between patients and their care is making sure they have easier access to transportation for those who need it. This would promote attendance to appointments, following through with treatment plans, and better health outcomes. Keeping up to date on evidence-based innovations will keep healthcare progressing towards a more inclusive approach to all patients in the future. I hope to continuously educate myself about different cultures and accommodations to provide the best care for all patients. Healthcare is not one size fits all.