Vulnerability is the degree to which individuals, populations or organisations are unable to foresee risk factors, deal with or resist risk factors or overcome their adverse effects. With regard to health, vulnerable populations are populations in which there is a higher risk of poor health condition or healthcare inaccessibility. Vulnerability can stem from socioeconomic status, age, gender, health condition, ethnic background or other factors. Usually, a combination of several of these factors is involved.
The experiences of vulnerable persons indicate that they face many obstacles in taking care of their own health and accessing the healthcare system, including preventive care programmes. They are often marginalised, excluded from social developments and more exposed to health-related problems.
The most frequently defined vulnerable groups are:
- children and adolescents with developmental challenges,
- persons with low income, whose livelihood depends on various types of assistance (recipients of social or humanitarian relief),
- unemployed, precarious workers, self-employed,
- older persons,
- disabled (disabled without status, with more complex disabilities, unemployed),
- Roma (unemployment, low level of education, poor housing conditions),
- homeless (health and housing problems),
- persons with mental health problems,
- persons addicted to illicit drugs,
- persons with experience of (domestic) violence,
- migrants, refugees and asylum seekers (poor knowledge of language, employment, housing situation).
Health maintenance and strengthening are understood and treated as fundamental components of everyday life for all people. In order to ensure the good health of vulnerable groups we strive for comprehensive and integrated care in IHPCs and primary health care centres and local communities.
Primary health care centres carry out activities to ensure equality in the healthcare of vulnerable groups, whose purpose is to improve health and health-related quality of life.
Envisaged activities are intended for:
- the parents of children of up to one year of age,
- persons with movement or sensory impairment,
- persons with linguistic communication difficulties and
- are related to the development of new content for the self-assessment of a primary care centre with regard to ensuring equality in the healthcare of vulnerable groups.
Breastfeeding is an important source of nutrition for newborns and infants in the first months of their life. Establishing and maintaining lactation can involve many unknowns for a breastfeeding mother, and perhaps also some complications for which she finds no answers. Programmes for assistance and support in lactation and breastfeeding are available for this purpose, and are conducted by trained professionals.
Movement patterns a child acquires in the first year of their life affect the development of posture, movement sense and coordination. Family awareness that physical activity is an important element of healthy life habits contributes to the inclusion of physical activity in daily life. The key to success is the reformed programmes on this topic intended for parents and children of up to one year of age led by neurophysiotherapists.
Healthcare professionals and persons with movement and/or sensory impairment cooperate in assessing the suitability of facilities and the use of communication measures in primary care centres. On the basis of the findings the group has proposed measures for improvements to primary health care centres in the continuation of the project.
Intercultural mediation is an internationally recognised practice used to reduce inequality and assess the quality of care in healthcare and other institutions. Its aim is to bridge barriers and eliminate misunderstandings stemming from linguistic, cultural, social and other differences. A person can request the assistance of an interpreter or cultural mediator in a healthcare institution or during a preventive health check or other preventive care activities.
Various measures and programmes intended for different vulnerable groups will be gradually introduced on the basis of prescribed guidelines for the self-assessment of primary care centres with regard to reducing health inequalities.