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Vulnerable populations are defined as peoples requiring special considerations related to health and well-being; anyone that is unable to speak for themselves is considered to be part of a vulnerable population as well (Falkner, 2018, para. 20). Examples of vulnerable populations include refugees/immigrants, non-insured/under-insured, children, elderly, and mentally/physically disabled. Vulnerable populations are correlated with social determinants of health, many times there will be a strong presence of uncontrollable measures for these populations. Populations that have been exposed to dangerous chemicals either through biological and/or chemical warfare or accidents are at a high risk for vulnerability; in these situations various factors should be considered such as long term health effects and mental health. The Chernobyl Accident of 1986 placed devastating consequences on the surrounding population. “The accident caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation, and large quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air for about 10 days. This caused serious social and economic disruption for large populations in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine” (World Nuclear Association, 2018, para. 15). Issues such as acute and long term health effects to chemicals, social implications such as displacement from home and clean-up/re-building, and mental health implications related to stress, are all examples of vulnerabilities for this population. The exact number of people affected by the Chernobyl accident remains unclear, this number is hard to dictate because of the multi-faceted effects of this accident ranging from health concerns such as Thyroid cancer and reproductive issues in women. Because the effects of radiation were not fully researched at the time many physicians encouraged pregnant women in the areas affected by the accident to have abortions (World Nuclear Association, 2018, para. 31). Research about the actual effects of the radiation exposure during that time is still questionable, lack of research about the population before the accident makes it difficult to differentiate between radiation effects and pre-disposed factors. An undeniable effect of this accident is the soar in alcohol and substance abuse. Stigmas attached to the disaster have created a culture of chronic dependency (World Nuclear Association, 2018, para. 27). Because of the prevalence of substance abuse and mental health decline in this region this population is a candidate for nursing advocacy. “Mental health disorders are more prevalent in Ukrainians who reported that they lived in the zone affected by the Chernobyl disaster; by gender, men were at a greater risk of having alcohol disorders, while women experienced an increased risk of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)” (Bolt, Helming, & Tintle, 2018, para. 33). Years of alcohol and/or substance abuse can make it difficult for a person to properly advocate for them self; alcohol is considered a depressant and has last long term effects on individuals both physically and mentally.


Falkner, A. (2018). Chapter 3: Community as Client. Community & Public Health: The Future of Health Care.

WHO. Mental and Social Aspects of Health of Populations Exposed to Chemical Weapons: An Overview. World Health Organization.

WHO. (2005). Mental Health of Populations Exposed to Biological and Chemical Weapons. World Health Organization.

World Nuclear Association. (2018). Chernobyl Accident 1986.

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