(Los Angeles – November 14, 2012) Nurses who conduct research on aging issues often hear stories from older adult patients that highlight the inequalities in our healthcare system, illustrate the boundaries of ethical decision making that can impact clinical outcomes and bring into focus unresolved social policy issues. 

Sadly, these voices do not get the attention they need or deserve.

            Now, researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing will examine these issues of social justice and how nurses can give voice to the elderly and other vulnerable populations to influence policy and care delivery during a symposium at the Gerontological Society of America on Nov. 15.  Their presentation, "Advocating for Hidden Voices, Social Justice Among Vulnerable Populations, "at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting runs from 8 to 9:30 am.

            "In their research, our nurses have heard stories about the discrimination and disparities among the marginalized in our society," said Linda Phillips, PhD, RN and director of the Center for Advancement of Gerontological Nursing Sciences at the UCLA School of Nursing.  "As nurses and researchers, we have a responsibility to not tolerate these disparities for vulnerable populations."

            During this symposium, researchers will discuss how the issues of social justice have arisen in a variety of areas during developing and implementation of research:

  • Abuse in California's skilled nursing facilities.  Nursing homes are a place where seniors should be safe. Yet according to government figures, one third of nursing homes in California have been cited for causing serious harm or death to patients.  This presentation will discuss elder abuse in skilled nursing facilities and how the lack of fines and enforcement offer little incentive to initiate change in practice.
  • African American men and prostate cancer.  Prostate Cancer incidence and mortality rates are highest among older African American men; inadequate healthcare access, low socio-economic status and race are all key factors. This presentation will focus on the role gerontological nurse researchers can play in addressing these types of problems and will discuss outcomes associated with financially-based treatment inequities and how to use these stories to influence policy.
  • Aging among older homeless woman.  The "golden years" are often looked upon by older adults as a period for reflection and enjoyment but many find themselves destitute and homeless.  Approximately 33 percent of chronically homeless adults are over 50 and are at high risk for chronic illness, social isolation and victimization.  Moreover, they lack housing and access to healthcare.  This presentation will discuss the development and implementation of programs that can meet the needs of this vulnerable population.
  • Disparities among racial and ethnic groups.  Despite strong and convincing evidence of health disparities and expansive difference in health outcomes, there are limited studies being done that focus on unique racial/ethnic groups.  The final presentation will showcase the need for funding to address health disparities among these groups and where we are at today in terms of funded research.  

"By sharing this research, we hope to the raise awareness of these healthcare discrepancies and start the work to make changes that build a healthy community for all," added Phillips.

   The UCLA School of Nursing is redefining nursing through the pursuit of uncompromised excellence in research, education, practice, policy and patient advocacy.  For more information, please visit nursing.ucla.edu.