Health of Vulnerable Populations


At the end of the course students must be able to:
1. Know the main theoretical perspectives and conceptual evolution of the concept of health vulnerability.
2. Identify the factors of vulnerability in specific population groups.
3. Recognize the importance of social, behavioural and epidemiological aspects associated to health of vulnerable populations.
4. Understand health inequalities, including in access and utilization of health services.
5. Identify health needs, as well as priorities and strategies to improve health status of vulnerable populations.
6. Understand the barriers and challenges underlying the interventions to reduce health inequalities.
Reflect on the planning and implementation of research and interventions that enable effective health gain and well-being of vulnerable populations.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Ana Abecasis


Weekly - Se a UC for oferecida como opcional, o horário será disponibilizado no 2º semestre

Total - 40

Teaching language

English and Portuguese


Not applicable


• Bhopal, R. (Ed.) Ethnicity, race and health in multicultural societies: Foundations for better epidemiology, public health and health care. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
• Sebastian, J. and Bushy, A. (Eds.) Special Populations in the Community: Advances in Reducing Health Disparities. Maryland: Aspen Publishers, 1999.
• Huff, R. and Kline, M. Promoting Health in Multicultural Populations: A Handbook for Practitioners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999.
• Skolnik, R. Essentials of global health. London: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2008.
• Campbell, C. Social capital and health: Contextualising health promotion within local community networks. In S. Baron, J. Field and T. Schuller (Eds.), Social capital: Critical perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
• Shi, L., and Stevens, G.D. (2010). Community determinants and mechanisms of vulnerability. In L. Shi, and G.D. Stevens, (Eds.), Vulnerable populations in the United States (pp. 35-92). San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
• Stevens, G.D., and Cousineau, M.R. (2007). Health disparities in multicultural populations: An overview. In M.V. Kline, and R.M. Huff (Eds.), Promoting health in multicultural populations: A handbook for practitioners and students (pp. 102-124). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
The remaining bibliography will be provided by the teacher responsible for the module.

Teaching method

The teaching method used will consist of the conceptual exposure, followed by discussion and participation of students after reading and critical analysis of the literature previously provided.

Evaluation method

The assessment will be done through an oral presentation and discussion of scientific papers and a group assignment.

Subject matter

I. Health Vulnerability:
- Conceptual framework: definition, models and theories.
- Factors of health vulnerability: multidisciplinary approach.
- Epidemiological profile and health status of vulnerable populations.
II. Health and vulnerability factors in specific population groups:
- Poverty, Gender, ethnicity, migration, social exclusion, individuals with debilitating and/or stigmatizing diseases.
- Health inequalities in vulnerable populations: access and utilization of health services.
III. Principles, priorities and strategies to improve health status of vulnerable populations:
- Conceptual and methodological principles in research and intervention with vulnerable populations.
- Health promotion and disease prevention in specific groups: migrants, socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, homeless, sex workers, drug addicts.
- Examples of best practices; Prevention and control of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
- Barriers and challenges in reducing health inequalities.
- Empowerment and vulnerable groups.
- Role of social support and ‘social capital’.


Programs where the course is taught: