Care for Prisoners Will Improve Public Health, Researchers Say (..."improving the mental and physical health of inmates will improve public health.") 
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 Care for Prisoners Will Improve Public Health, Researchers Say (..."improving the mental and physical health of inmates will improve public health.")

Care for Prisoners Will Improve Public Health, Researchers Say
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ScienceDaily (Nov. 19, 2010) In a comprehensive global survey,
researchers in Texas and England have concluded that improving the
mental and physical health of inmates will improve public health.

In their article, "The health of prisoners," Seena Fazel of the
University of Oxford and Jacques Baillargeon of the University of
Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, write that caring for the mental
and physical health of prisoners has a direct and important impact on
public health that should be recognized. Their findings, to be
published Online First in the British medical journal The Lancet on
Nov. 19, are based on a survey of available literature on prisoner
health across the world (with most data from high-income countries*).

"Prisoners act as reservoirs of infection and chronic disease,
increasing the public health burden of poor communities," they write.
"Most prisoners return to their communities with their physical and
psychiatric morbidity occasionally untreated and sometimes worsened."
More than 10 million people are incarcerated worldwide, a number that
has increased by about a million during the last decade. The United

States has the highest number of prisoners per population, with 756
per 100,000 compared to a mean of 145 per 100,000 worldwide. The
authors note that "prisoners bear a substantial burden of physical and
psychiatric disorders relative to the general population." This health
disparity has been attributed to various behavi{*filter*}and socioeconomic
conditions.

"For these individuals, prison provides an opportunity for diagnosis,
disease management education, counseling and treatment they would not
receive in the general community," they write.

Baillargeon, an associate professor and epidemiologist in the
department of preventive medicine and community health at UTMB, has
substantial experience in prisoner research.

"Scientists around the world have consistently observed a
disproportionate burden of chronic and infectious disease among
prisoners," said Baillargeon. "In many cases, incarceration presents a
rare opportunity to receive disease screening and preventive health
care, treatment and education.
He noted that many prisoners with serious mental illness such as
schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders cycle in and out of the
prison system. For these individuals, linkage to appropriate community-
based psychiatric care is critical if we are to remove them from this
cycle of recurrent imprisonment..
While there may some resistance to spending money on prisoner care,
Baillargeon said "the vast majority of offenders are incarcerated for
a relatively short period of time and will be in the community
eventually." And while most people understand the public health
importance of treating infectious diseases, he added that "for most US
inmates, who are without private health insurance upon release from
prison, treatment of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and
congestive heart failure will ultimately require substantial use of
public resources."
The authors recommend that health-care resources be targeted at
prisons since they provide an opportunity for screening, prevention,
and early intervention. Failure to prevent disease, reduce
transmission, or treat conditions at an early stage may result in
inefficient use of scarce public resources for health care. Statistics
on prisoner health should be publicly available and national, prison-
specific policies and guidelines should be developed. There should be
a discharge program for released prisoners that links them to
community health programs to ensure effective treatment.

They write that prisons should become more research-friendly
environments. Protecting prisoners from coercive and abusive research
is important. However, it is also important to ensure that inmates are
not systematically excluded from important clinical studies.
Understanding how to identify, prevent and treat disease in inmate
populations holds public health relevance that extends far beyond
prison walls.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice,
diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily
reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by
ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Texas
Medical Branch at Galveston, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Journal Reference:
Seena Fazel and Jacques Baillargeon. The health of prisoners. The
Lancet, November 19, 2010 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61053-7



Fri, 31 May 2013 20:48:23 GMT
 
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