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Health Inequities Among Vulnerable Populations

Published By: Majdulina Hamed

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Health inequities continue to be a rising problem in the United States especially considering the vulnerable populations. More specifically, the homeless population is often forgotten when making effective healthcare decisions. 

In order to discuss these issues, we must define what these factors are. According to the World Health Organization, “health inequities are systematic differences…[that] have significant social and economic costs to both individuals and societies” (WHO, 2018). On the other hand, health disparities can be defined as “preventable difference in the burden of disease…that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations” (CDC, 2020). With these definitions in mind, we can now apply these concepts to the vulnerable populations at hand, the homeless population. 

It is important to consider that there are multiple factors influencing the vulnerable population whether it be being chronically ill or disabled, low income, certain geographic communities, environmental influences, or age. For these groups, health and healthcare issues may be heightened as a result of socioeconomic conditions. In addition, because they are at greater health risks, other problems could follow such as decreased access to high-quality care, and increased illness and mortality compared to the general population (Joszt, 2020). Moreover, there are other emerging trends such as health care technologies and health reform policies, that are key components to the health inequities in the United States. 

Furthermore, to help people experiencing homelessness with health issues, we need to address the underlying social and economic issues. These include having access to housing or shelter, being unemployed, lack of access to resources such as medicine, lack of transportation, as well as lack of education among other factors. Not only are these health inequalities, but they are also medical and social conditions that should not be dismissed. The economic cost of homelessness should also be recognized so that effective solutions can be made. By providing housing/shelter and easier access to health services, the risk for preventable diseases could be significantly reduced. 

In conclusion, Project Downtown Orlando acknowledges these arising problems and the organization strives to make a difference by providing food and sanitation packages to the local homeless community in Orlando. Additionally, PDO utilizes partnerships that assist in providing COVID-19 vaccinations and check-ups with mobile clinics. The first step is being aware of the problem; the next step is to understand the impact of homelessness on individuals’ social and economic conditions that result in health inequities among this vulnerable population.

References

WHO. Health Inequities and Their Causes, World Health Organization, 22 Feb. 2018, https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/health-inequities-and-their-causes. 

CDC. “Health Disparities.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Nov. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/index.htm. 

Joszt, Laura. “5 Vulnerable Populations in Healthcare.” 5 Vulnerable Populations in Healthcare, AJMC, 30 July 2020, https://www.ajmc.com/view/5-vulnerable-populations-in-healthcare. 

Mariana, Arcaya C., and Figueroa F. Jose. “Emerging Trends Could Exacerbate Health Inequities in the United States: Health Affairs Journal.” Health Affairs, Emerging Trends Could Exacerbate Health Inequities In The United States, 1 June 2017, https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0011. 

Stafford, A., & Wood, L. (2017). Tackling Health Disparities for People Who Are Homeless? Start with Social Determinants. International journal of environmental research and public health14(12), 1535. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14121535

About the author
Majdulina Hamed
Majdulina Hamed is a Master’s Health Administration graduate from the University of Central Florida. Maj also received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Communication from UCF as well as certificates in Health Communication and Leadership. Maj’s goals include public health education through health campaigns, initiatives, marketing, and communication.

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