Vulnerable Population Health Needs in Rural Areas


When furnishing care to vulnerable populations such as the reservation-based American Indian population, many issues should be considered. They are related to the socio-cultural, historical, and educational backgrounds that have determined the state of health care in southwest Arizona. It is essential to evaluate the high-priority health needs of this population to be able to address them in the plan of care accordingly.

Challenges to Elders in Rural Areas

It should be noted that elders meet several challenges in this rural area as they need to receive care ranging from the primary one to specialty services, which are not easily accessible for them. The elders do not have proper access to dental or environmental services. Further, due to low public health services, the majority of the elders are health illiterate and do not get enough support in the raising of their awareness (Allender, Rector, & Warner, 2013). One of the challenges is poor mental health support despite the fact that one of the leading health problems of this population group is depressive moods. Thus, the major challenges are related to low physical and mental health services.

According to the statistics, almost 80% of the Indian elders have rather low income, and they receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income); however, it is not enough to cover their health needs. Almost 10% of elders have mobility limitations to some degree (Lundy & Janes, 2014). In addition, the majority of this population group has no telephone connection, which reduces their possibilities to gain medical help or consultation. As mentioned earlier, many of them are health illiterate, and the majority of the elders received only primary school education, which greatly complicates their understanding of health-related data and information. Apart from that, people need to travel long distances to get help off-reservation.

Health Problems

One of the leading health problems is hypertension. It is prevalent in more than 30% of the population. However, it is the consequence of diabetes mellitus, which is the case for more than half the population group. Among other health problems that the elders frequently experience are rheumatism, gallbladder disease, pneumonia, and cirrhosis (Allender et al., 2013). As stated above, many of the people have mobility limitations, though; they do not have self-care restraints.

Moreover, depressive moods are prevalent in the reservation-based American Indian population. The elderly are susceptible to labeling, which is a consequence of cultural beliefs. Thus, they are reluctant to turn to mental health care specialists and tend to abuse substances such as alcohol to escape from disturbing feelings (Lundy & Janes, 2014). The drinking pattern of the group requires immediate addressing. However, the risk group, in this case, are the women.

Gaps in Service

In terms of health care services, the leading issues are the language gap and low levels of education. The nursing staff is likely to face misunderstanding or miscommunication because furnishing care for this group requires proficiency in the American Indian language (Lundy & Janes, 2014). Also, the health tendencies evidence that the members of the group are not consistent in health screenings and immunizations; consequently, it will be necessary to reconsider the plan of care to include examinations on the functional declines in the population.

In conclusion, the elders in this rural region face a number of health-related challenges. The behavioral patterns, socio-cultural background, and low literacy shall be considered in the course of nursing planning. These implications can be addressed accordingly through culturally congruent intervention plans that will consider the existing risk factors and implement such strategies that would target the high-priority needs of this group with due respect to their peculiarities.


Allender, J., Rector, C., & Warner, K. (2013). Community & public health nursing. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Lundy, K., & Janes, S. (2014). Community health nursing. Burlinton, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.