Bias and prejudice are inevitable when working with people. Even though it is believed that some areas of human interactions cannot be influenced by inequalities, it is not true in real life, and the health care industry is not an exception. In this paper, the health of vulnerable populations will be reviewed. Primary attention will be paid to differences in providing medical aid to dominant groups of the population and those who are considered vulnerable. The focus will be made on describing experienced and witnessed disparities and reflecting on the ways to prevent avoidable and unjust inequalities in the health care sector.
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Bias and prejudice are complicated to eradicate from social consciousness. That is why human interactions are usually aggravated by inequalities. Sometimes, they are supported by unconsciously. For instance, even though professional medical aid should be equally accessible, some vulnerable groups of the populations commonly feel oppressed and receive services of lower quality compared to dominant groups. Vulnerable populations are those who are at higher risks of inadequate social, psychological, or physical health care facilities (Chesnay & Anderson, 2012). Ethnic, gender, religious, and tribal minorities, refugees, prisoners, immigrants, the elderly, and people with disabilities are usually considered vulnerable.
Reviewing the health of vulnerable populations
It is essential to note that the potential cause of inequality is not only conscious or subconscious prejudice and unwillingness to treat people with a particular background but also the inadequate educational background of those belonging to vulnerable groups. It means that they might not be aware of their right to medical care, experience inequalities due to language barriers or underdeveloped system of hospital care in some distant areas of a country. Besides, socioeconomic status of an individual determines their opportunities to have access to adequate care because professional medical aid is usually costly and the percentage of those who cannot afford to pay for it or take out insurance is extremely high (Chesnay & Anderson, 2012; Shi & Stevens, 2010). It should be noted that even though the causes of disparities are varying for different vulnerable populations, the outcome is always the same – they do not obtain required health care services, which leads to unpredictable consequences for the condition of their health.
Describing a witnessed situation
In my community, I witnessed numerous instances of inequalities. Some of them were connected to the socioeconomic background of vulnerable populations, i.e. when patients felt the lack of financial or educational resources necessary for addressing the needs of their bodies (Riegelman, 2010). Other cases were related to a personal unwillingness to treat representatives of racial and religious minorities. There were as well misunderstandings connected to inadequate communication skills, i.e. when professionals could not find a correct approach to working with a particular patient. What is common between all the mentioned problems is the fact that they are easy to avoid.
Describing an experienced inequity
One of the most recent instances of inequality was caused by language barriers, i.e. failing to provide high-quality medical care because health care professionals could not communicate with a patient. This case is a common problem in a territory settled by representatives of numerous ethnic minorities. However, it is essential to note that the problem is usually aggravated by the lack of resources for providing educational materials translated into a different language to promote health protection and point to the significance of listening to the needs and signals of one’s body.
The witnessed experience is connected to one of the most severe chronic diseases – type II diabetes. It is not a secret that this health issue can be easily prevented by following clear recommendations of doctors. However, in the experienced case, a patient had no access to educational materials. Moreover, she could not communicate with her doctor and share her health concerns because of the language barriers. Also, the patient could not understand prescriptions and recommendations. As a result, she was forced to seek medical aid at another hospital unit even though she had her test done and was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus in my health care organization.
I am strongly inclined to believe that this patient belongs to a group of vulnerable populations because she is a representative of an ethnic minority. I think that this problem might have been overcome if a hospital unit allocated resources for overcoming the challenge of the existing language barrier. My position is the following: because the mentioned patient belongs to a large ethnic minority, addressing their needs is critical for the health of the whole community. First of all, it is necessary to translate educational materials into the required language and print and distribute brochures to point to the severity of the problem. Moreover, it is crucial to create a multilingual environment in a hospital unit. For instance, it is recommended to hire interpreters. Another option is to cooperate with doctors with international experience of bilingual professionals. Finally, introducing some translator applications might as well help prevent the emergence of a similar challenge in the future. I believe that if at least some steps were implemented in my hospital, the mentioned patient would not have been forced to seek help from other doctors and this inequity might have been avoided.
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Chesnay, M., & Anderson, B. A. (2012). Caring for the vulnerable: Perspectives in nursing theory, practice, and research. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Riegelman, R. K. (2010). Public health 101: Healthy people – healthy populations. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Shi, L., & Stevens, G. D. (2010). Vulnerable populations in the United States. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.