Immigrants as Vulnerable Population in the US

According to AJMC (2006), the vulnerable populations in the United States include multiple groups of individuals; in particular these populations involve the disadvantaged communities such as people, who live below the poverty line, homeless population, the individuals with severe health conditions and disabilities, children from low-income families, the elderly, people affected by mental illnesses and HIV. Moreover, the other communities that are characterized as vulnerable are the groups of the population living in the areas where it is difficult to access health care services and professionals; also, AJMC (2006) adds that the vulnerability of the communities mentioned above is often emphasized by their belonging to ethnic and racial minority groups. In other words, the set of determinants contributing to the vulnerability of the populations is complex and involves many factors (age, sex, health status, income level, geographical location, race and ethnicity, and housing); and that is why the number of the vulnerable individuals is large in the United States. Vulnerable populations have three major health domains – social (the homeless, immigrants, people living in poverty), physical (the individuals with chronic conditions, disabilities), psychological (persons affected by mental illnesses) (AJMC, 2006).

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Description of the Population

Pitkin Derose, Escarce and Lurie (2007) mention that immigrants are often recognized as the disadvantaged and vulnerable populations; however, they add that the factors that comprise the vulnerability of immigrants tend to differ and may involve such aspects as lack of English proficiency, poor education, immigration status, low income, geographical location and lack of access to health care services, as well as the insufficiency of policies that contribute to the disadvantages of immigrant groups in comparison to the US-born individuals. In that way, addressing the issues of these groups of the population is challenging, especially under the recent circumstances since the immigrants are now restricted and deprived of opportunities of accessing health care (Pitkin Derose et al., 2007).

According to the information provided by Census, the Hispanic population has been the largest group of immigrants in the United States for over fifteen years (Bureau of the Census, 2000). To be more precise, in 2000, Hispanics represented 12.5% of the US population, and in several decades they are anticipated to comprise about 25% of it (Ianotta, 2002). In 2005, the size of the Hispanic population in the United States was as large as 36 million people (Pitkin Derose et al., 2007). In addition, as a part of the immigrant population in the country – Hispanics constitute over 50% of all the foreign-born groups of people living on the territory of the United States (Pitkin Derose et al., 2007).

Application of Vulnerable Population Conceptual Model (VPCM)

As the largest immigrant community in the country, Hispanics tend to be rather diverse and thus are challenged by a wide scope of issues contributing to their vulnerability in terms of health status.

Resource Availability

First of all, Hispanic populations are less likely to have a good education and are more likely never to graduate from high schools or have an appropriate education to obtain well-paid jobs. As a result, they end up being unemployed or having low-skill occupations with very low salaries; in turn, low level of income of Hispanics deprives them of having health insurance and makes them unable to afford appropriate health care services. In particular, out of all groups of the population in the United States, Hispanics are the least likely to occupy managerial positions or have professional jobs – their involvement in these types of occupations is only 13%, in contrast, Asian-born individuals have the highest rate in this sphere – 47%, and the US-born people – 36% (Pitkin Derose et al., 2007).

Relative Risks

Among the leading health risks for the Hispanic population in the United States there are such diseases as HIV, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease, viral hepatitis, and some conditions associated with issues during the perinatal period – these are some of the primary factors contributing the increased rates of mortality in this group of the population (Ianotta, 2002).

The factors that contribute to the vulnerabilities of the Hispanic populations the most include a highly limited access to health care, low level of income and education, and living under a lot of distress in the daily life; in addition, Hispanic women and infants represent the most vulnerable groups within the segment (Ianotta, 2002).

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Health Status

As mentioned previously, Hispanics are exposed to a variety of health risks and have inadequate access to health care and thus often end up underserved. Among the leading health risks specific to Hispanics there are homicide and assault, liver disease, perinatal conditions, and cirrhosis (Ianotta, 2002). The other health risks included in the top ten for this population are common among the other groups as well – heart disease, COPD, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.


All in all, Hispanic groups are some of the most vulnerable immigrant communities in the United States. In general, they live in worse conditions than all the other segments of the immigrant population but are not as disadvantaged as non-Hispanic black communities. They are exposed to a variety of risks associated with their poor income, limited access to health services, low level of education and high rates of unemployment, and life in dangerous and stressful environments.


AJMC. (2006). Vulnerable Populations: Who Are They? Web.

Ianotta, J. G. (2002). Emerging Issues in Hispanic Health: Summary of a Workshop. New-York, NY: National Academies Press.

Pitkin Derose, K., Escarce J., & Lurie, N. (2007). Immigrants and Health Care: Sources of Vulnerability. Health Affairs, 26(5), 1258-1268.

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