Center for Vulnerable Population Protection

CNA's Center for Vulnerable Population Protection is committed to protecting underserved communities and people who are at risk due to age, income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, health disparities, mental health, refugee or immigration status, or other vulnerabilities. Our experts bring analytic capabilities and solution delivery to local, state and federal agencies serving these unique populations.


To develop actionable solutions to the challenges faced by vulnerable populations, their families, and the communities supporting them.


In the execution of our programs and projects, the center advocates for the inclusion of policies and programs that address the unique needs of vulnerable people. We accomplish this through analysis of policies and programs, development of plans and interventions, and the implementation of processes and programs designed to protect people at risk. CNA has technical expertise in these areas:

Background check programs— Fingerprint-based background checks on employees who will have direct access to vulnerable people are an effective means of preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation. The center supports the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services with their National Background Check Program Technical Assistance program, which assists states and territories in establishing programs to conduct background checks on all prospective employees for direct-access positions with long-term care facilities and providers. We also support the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services under a contract to research and analyze the challenges states face implementing interstate background check provisions in the Child Care Development Block Grant. We are working with the agency to fill gaps in knowledge and identify potential solutions.

Neglect, fraud and abuse of the elderly and children— Children and the elderly are two of the most vulnerable populations because they are often dependent upon others for their care. As a result, they can be subjected to neglect, fraud and abuse. The center is dedicated to understanding the issues and working with local, state, and federal agencies to design effective solutions.

Emergency preparedness and response— Disasters are disruptive to everyone impacted, but vulnerable populations face greater challenges in anticipating, coping with, resisting and recovering from the impacts of disasters. The center works with local, state and federal agencies to ensure policies and programs effectively address underserved populations and their unique needs. We collaborate closely with CNA’s Center for Emergency Management Operations and Center for Public Health Preparedness and Resilience on these complex issues.

Disability community engagement— To be effective, programs, policies and services for vulnerable populations need to include the communities they serve during the development phase. We provide customized training and scenario-based policy dialogues and simulations to help decision-makers, policy developers and program staff understand and overcome barriers to inclusion that disability communities face. Understanding that each disability community has its own culture, we facilitate “culture brokering” to bridge and link groups of different abilities and backgrounds in order to strengthen inclusion, promote change and reduce conflict. This process is particularly effective in high-stress environments such as after a disaster or emergency, and during an organizational crisis.

Critical incident analysis— Incidents of all types can disproportional affect the most vulnerable in our society. Our Center supports critical incident analysis with a discerning eye for impacts to vulnerable people. Our Center collaborates closely with CNA’s Center for Critical Incident Analysis in these analyses.

Displaced persons— People who have been forced to leave their homes are at risk for exploitation and abuse. CNA has experience in analyzing communities affected by crises — political instability, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and refugee migrations — and in assessing the factors that promote stability and safety.

Human trafficking— An estimated 20 million men, women and children worldwide are trafficked into forced labor or the commercial sex trade. The center helps organizations and state governments advance their understanding of this complex issue and develop techniques and tools to reduce the trafficked population in the United States. We collaborate closely with CNA’s Center for Justice Research and Innovation and Center for Public Health Preparedness and Resilience on this issue.

Supply chain analysis— Maintaining and reestablishing key commodity supply chains during a disaster is essential to supporting the recovery of affected populations. Vulnerable populations are particularly susceptible to bottlenecks in supply chains because access to transportation or supply may be limited. The Center is working to develop a framework to help regions identify bottlenecks in key commodity supply chains within specified areas and communities. We work closely with the Center for Homeland Security and Infrastructure Resilience on this analysis.

Food insecurity— Approximately 40 million Americans, including more than 12 million children, lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecurity disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. CNA analysts examine government, private sector and multilateral institution efforts to combat this complex problem.

Criminal justice— People of color and people with behavioral disorders are overrepresented in our criminal justice system. Within the prison system, aging offenders bring unique challenges. The center works with local, state and federal justice agencies to ensure policies and programs effectively address vulnerable populations and their unique challenges. We collaborate with CNA’s Center for Justice Research and Innovation on these complex issues.

Recent Reports

Background Checks

CNA developed this website for the National Background Check Program. Here we post best practices and other resources our team has created for the grantee states that are implementing statewide background check systems for long-term care facilities.

Food Chain Reaction—A Global Food Security Game

CNA, in collaboration with sponsors, designed and conducted a policy decision-making exercise with 65 international thought leaders to better understand the global impacts of and responses to deepening global food system disruptions.