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J Community Health. 2010 Jun;35(3):268-74. doi: 10.1007/s10900-010-9234-9.

Is incarceration a contributor to health disparities? Access to care of formerly incarcerated adults.

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Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, University of California Los Angeles, 911 Broxton Avenue 3rd floor, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.


Despite the disproportionate prevalence of incarceration in communities of color, few studies have examined its contribution to health disparities. We examined whether a lifetime history of incarceration is associated with recent access to medical and dental care. We performed a secondary data analysis of the 2007 Los Angeles County Health Survey, a population-based random-digit-dialing telephone survey of county households. Any history of incarceration in a prison/jail/detention center as an adult was assessed for a random subsample. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses examined whether incarceration history was associated with access to care, controlling for other characteristics. Ten percent of our study population reported a history of incarceration. While persons with an incarceration history were similar to their peers with regard to health and insurance status, their access to medical and dental care was worse. Incarceration history was independently associated with disparities in access to care. Interventions to improve the health of communities affected by high rates of incarceration could include efforts that enable access to care for formerly incarcerated adults.

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