The inverse care law: implications for healthcare of vulnerable populations

J Ambul Care Manage. 2005 Oct-Dec;28(4):304-12. doi: 10.1097/00004479-200510000-00005.


Past and present, those with the greatest healthcare needs often receive the least adequate healthcare. This phenomenon, termed the "inverse care law," has implications for healthcare and outcomes for vulnerable populations including low-income persons, racial and ethnic minorities, and the uninsured among others. This article reviews disparities in health status and access to healthcare for vulnerable populations. It illustrates how concentration of risk factors within individuals, families, and communities worsens the paradox between healthcare need and access and highlights the models of healthcare delivery needed to adequately meet the needs of vulnerable populations.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Ethnicity
  • HIV Infections
  • Homeless Persons
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Mental Disorders
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • United States
  • Vulnerable Populations / legislation & jurisprudence*