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BMC Health Serv Res. 2017 Aug 22;17(1):581. doi: 10.1186/s12913-017-2532-5.

Health care needs assessment among adolescents in correctional institutions in Zambia: an ethical analysis.

Author information

School of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Zambia, P.O. Box 50110, Lusaka, Zambia.
Minstry of Health, District, Lusaka, Zambia.
Departments of Public Health, Section of Health Policy and Management, School of Medicine, University of Zambia, P.O. Box 50110, Lusaka, Zambia.
School of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Zambia, P.O. Box 50110, Lusaka, Zambia.



While health care needs assessments have been conducted among juveniles or adolescents by researchers in developed countries, assessments using an ethics framework particularly in developing countries are lacking. We analysed the health care needs among adolescents at the Nakambala Correctional Institution in Zambia, using the Beauchamp and Childress ethics framework. The ethics approach facilitated analysis of moral injustices or dilemmas triggered by health care needs at the individual (adolescent) level.


The research team utilized 35 in-depth interviews with juveniles, 6 key informant interviews and 2 focus group discussions to collect data. We analysed the data using thematic analysis. The use of three sources of data facilitated triangulation of data.


Common health problems included HIV/AIDS, STIs, flu, diarrhoea, rashes, and malaria. Although there are some health promotion strategies at the Nakambala Approved School, the respondents classified the health care system as inadequate. The unfavourable social context which included clouded rooms and lack of adolescent health friendly services unfairly exposed adolescents to several health risks and behaviours thus undermining the ethics principle of social justice. In addition, the limited prioritisation of adolescent centres by the stakeholders and erratic funding also worsened injustices by weakening the health care system. Whereas the inadequate medical and drug supplies, shortage of health workers in the nearby health facilities and weak referral systems excluded the juveniles from enjoying maximum health benefits thus undermining adolescents' wellbeing or beneficence. Inadequate medical and drug supplies as well as non-availability of adolescent friendly health services at the nearest health facility did not only affect social justice and beneficence ethics principles but also threatened juveniles' privacy, liberty and confidentiality as well as autonomy with regard to health service utilisation.


Adequately addressing the health needs in correctional institutions may require adopting an ethics framework in conducting health needs assessment. An ethics approach is important because it facilitates understanding of moral dilemmas that arise due to health needs. Furthermore, strategies for addressing health needs related to one ethics principle may have a positive ripple effect over other health needs as the principles are intertwined thus facilitating a comprehensive response to health needs.


Autonomy, justice, beneficence; Correctional facilities; Health needs assessment

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