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HomeHealth articlescommunicable diseaseWhat Are the Health Promotion Strategies for Vulnerable Populations?

Health Promotion for Vulnerable Populations

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4 min read


Addressing health disparities among vulnerable populations requires tailored health promotion strategies.

Written by

Dr. Leenus A. E

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At September 12, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 12, 2023


The rising expense of healthcare, the convoluted health insurance market, and a diminishing pool of medical experts provide daily challenges for millions of Americans with complex medical issues. Especially, the vulnerable populations, which include the economically disadvantages laborers, the elderly, the homeless, racial and ethnic minorities, and the uninsured, are more likely to have serious medical issues and complications as a result of poorly accessible healthcare, low health literacy, and a higher prevalence of communicable diseases. The high medical care and insurance expense is the main barrier to healthcare access. The concept of vulnerability does not refer to personal traits but rather to social processes that may lead to higher risk exposure, increased sensitivity to adverse outcomes, and less ability to cope or adapt.

What Are Health Disparities?

It is well known that social factors play a crucial role in the complicated processes that shape health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), systematic disparities in health status between various socioeconomic groups constitute social inequities in health. These unreasonable disparities are socially produced and thus changeable. The various risk factors and co-morbidities exposed to vulnerable populations can be socially explained, such as low socioeconomic status, substandard housing circumstances, etc. To put it simply, vulnerable populations, or those who "share social characteristics that put them at higher risk of risks," are groups of people.

Social health disparities were a major topic of discussion in the WHO study "Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity Through Action on the Social Determinant of Health," reflecting their global salience in 2005. According to this research, public health should concentrate on the social determinants of health, such as gender, ethnicity, education, income, working conditions, access to enough healthy food, and housing. It also called for health equity. Examples of these initiatives include:

  • Expanding childcare facilities.

  • Equitable and robust educational systems.

  • Subsidizing nutritious school lunches.

  • Providing safe housing.

  • Creating an environment at work that is psychologically safe.

What Is the Definition of a Vulnerable Population? Who Are Vulnerable Populations?

  1. Patients who belong to racial or ethnic minorities, young people, the elderly, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those who lack health insurance, and people with certain medical disorders are among the vulnerable populations.

  2. Members of poor populations frequently have health issues unintentionally made worse by subpar healthcare. Due to differences in their physical, economic, and social health status when compared to the dominant group, they are regarded as vulnerable.

  3. Social factors may exacerbate medical disorders in vulnerable populations. The community health program prioritizes population groups with complex care needs or health problems, poorer overall health outcomes, impediments to receiving adequate healthcare, or who are economically or socially disadvantaged.

  4. Compared to the general population, vulnerable groups have more risk factors, less access to care, and higher morbidity and mortality rates.

  5. A few of the examples that are regarded as vulnerable populations are as follows:

  • Racial and ethnic minorities.

  • The economically disadvantaged.

  • People with chronic medical conditions.

  • Indigenous people.

  • People with an intellectual disability.

  • People in need of asylum.

  • People who are homeless.

  • Children who are in foster care.

What Is Health Promotion?

The practice of giving people more authority to exert more control over and improve their health is referred to as health promotion, according to the WHO. Thus, the focus is shifted from individual behavior to societal and environmental changes. Public health made significant advancements in population health during the late 18th and early 19th century by enhancing sanitation and avoiding communicable diseases utilizing population-centered treatments (such as proper sewage disposal and mass immunizations). The main goal of preventive public health initiatives was to warn high-risk individuals about the dangers of recently discovered harmful behaviors.

What Are the Health Promotion Strategies for Vulnerable Populations?

Some of the health promotion strategies for vulnerable populations are discussed below:

  • Identification of Vulnerable Populations: It would be possible to monitor vulnerable people more frequently as part of quality measurement activities if such information were regularly available in existing datasets. Attempts to safeguard vulnerable people's privacy or shield them from discrimination may also make it more difficult to identify them. For instance, most health plans need to consistently gather data on members' income, education, and race; these variables can raise the risk of receiving subpar care, but it is challenging to identify these people systematically. The initial steps toward making particular policy suggestions may be to understand better the factors contributing to the adverse health effects of being socioeconomically disadvantaged or a member of a vulnerable community.
  • Improving Social Factors: The most prevalent social factors relating to health include unemployment, lack of access to food and shelter, a lack of social support, and illiteracy. It is determined that healthcare providers must take several initiatives, including patient screening and proactive treatments, to address these social determinants of health.
  • Health Financing: The federal government could determine the total amount available to reimburse all medical facilities over a certain period if the existing fee-for-service healthcare system were replaced with a global budget system.
  • Access to Telemedicine: Access to instant, round-the-clock medical advice and care are made possible via virtual healthcare. Patients can be examined, diagnosed, and monitored using cutting-edge technology by healthcare providers. Virtual healthcare might treat mild ailments, boost primary care access, and improve referrals to specialists for more successful treatment, which would be much more useful for vulnerable populations.
  • Targeted Medical Support: Rural hospital clinics, health services in frontier regions, and collaborations with National Health Services provide targeted medical support. Integrating medical, behavioral, and dental care between rural hospitals and community health clinics is a critical component of targeted services for rural communities. Due to their considerable isolation from other people, health services in frontier regions must address issues with patients' capacity to seek care.


Inequalities in the burden of sickness, injury, violence, or opportunity to reach optimal health that vulnerable communities must bear are health inequalities and are unjust, unfair, and preventable. Public health needs to intervene more with vulnerable populations to ensure that socially vulnerable groups are not forgotten. Future public health interventions should focus on the socioeconomic determinants of health and be population-centered if the history is any indication. The population-centered activities should be supported with initiatives geared toward the most socially vulnerable groups, where appropriate and in accordance with local circumstances.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


communicable disease
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