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Aust N Z J Public Health. 2008 Dec;32(6):549-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2008.00308.x.

Prison health and public health responses at a regional prison in Western Australia.

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1
Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health (CUCRH) Medical Faculty, University of Western Australia, Geraldton WA 6531, Australia. mgilles@cucrh.uwa.edu.au

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To describe the health of inmates in a Western Australian regional prison and evaluate the coverage of public health interventions.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional audit of all paper-based and electronic medical notes of inmates at one regional prison in Western Australia.

SETTING:

A mixed medium-security prison in regional Western Australia.

PARTICIPANTS:

185 prisoners, 170 men and 15 women.

MAIN RESULTS:

The prisoners were mainly young (70% < 35 years of age) and Indigenous (84%). Fifty two percent of prisoners had at least one chronic health condition. There was a significantly higher prevalence of diabetes to that found in the general Indigenous population (15% vs 6% p=0.001), and a significantly lower prevalence hepatitis C (4.5%) compared with both national (29-61%) and State (20%) data. Screening for sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses within the first month of incarceration was achieved for 43% of inmates. Vaccination coverage for influenza (36%) and pneumococcal disease (12%) was low.

CONCLUSION:

This study makes visible the burden of disease and reach of public health interventions within a largely Indigenous regional prisoner population. Our study demonstrates that the additional risks associated with being Indigenous remain in a regional Australian prison but also shows that interventions can be delivered equitably to Indigenous and non-Indigenous inmates.

IMPLICATIONS:

Ongoing monitoring of prisoner health is critical to take advantage of opportunities to improve public health interventions with timely STI and BBV screening and increased vaccinations rates.

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