The Application of a Vulnerable Populations Conceptual Model to Rural Health


  • Susan Bragg Leight Ed.D., RNCS, C-ANP

    1. Susan B. Leight is a Temporary Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, Fairmont State College, Fairmont, West Virginia.
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Susan Bragg Leight, Fairmont State College Department of Nursing, 1201 Locust Avenue, Fairmont, WV 26554. E-mail:


Background:  This article describes the application of the vulnerable populations conceptual model to rural health. Vulnerable populations are social groups who have an increased susceptibility to adverse health outcomes. Evidence of this differential in vulnerability or increased risk includes premature mortality, comparative morbidity, decreased functional status, and diminished quality of life.

Organizing Framework:  The vulnerable populations conceptual model postulates that there are interrelationships among resource availability, relative risk, and health status. Resource availability speaks to socioeconomic and environmental resources that are operationalized in this model as income, jobs, education, housing, availability of health care, quality of health care, and patterns of family and community life. Relative risk addresses the likelihood of exposure to risk factors and is reflected in lifestyle behaviors and choices and exposure to stressful events. Health status is operationalized as morbidity and mortality.

Findings:  This review of the literature supports the utility of the vulnerable populations conceptual model in working with rural populations.

Implications:  This model has potential utility to inform nursing research, practice, and policy about the opportunities and resources needed to achieve and maintain health in rural communities.