Occurrence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Prisoners - An Overview

by Anne Trueman on  May 8, 2012 at 1:51 PM Health In Focus
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A recent research conducted by Dr. Katherine Herbert et al of the Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, UK, has revealed that globally male prisoners are comparatively slimmer than males in the general world. However, female prisoners are obese than their counterparts in the general population, except in UK.
Occurrence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Prisoners - An Overview
Occurrence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Prisoners - An Overview

Non-communicable diseases (NCD), like heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer, are major medical conditions, which are non-transferable and non-infectious among individuals. NCD account for 3 out of 5 deaths globally. The underprivileged social sectors such as prisoners are vulnerable to these diseases.

This research is the first systematic analysis of the identifiable risk factors of non-communicable diseases, like poor and faulty diet, inadequate exercises, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol consumption and smoking, among the prisoners.

The experts have examined 31 studies that included 60,000 prisoners in about 884 institutions across 15 nations. They have discovered that women prisoners were 18% more likely to be overweight as compared to the general women population in the USA. Similar results were seen with Australian women prisoners.

The female prisoners in Great Britain had less chance to be obese than non-imprisoned females, for which the experts did not have an explanation.

Further they saw that male prisoners were 13% to 67% less likely to be overweight than non-imprisoned men.

The data for physical activity was available for Australia and England, and it revealed that in contrast to Australian prisoners and the non-imprisoned general UK populations, the prisoners in UK were less likely to get recommended physical activity guidelines.

The prisoners in Australia were involved in 150 minutes of moderate exercises every week. This was far more than what the general population does.

The scientists mentioned, "This difference cannot be attributed purely to a cultural difference; something must be inherent in the structure of the prison environment that enables Australian prisoners to exercise.

The analysis of prisoner diet showed that while male diets in high-income countries provide an appropriate calorie intake, female diets provided a substantial excess of total energy. The evidence suggests that female prisoners are simply supplied with a diet designed for males."

The experts concluded that, "Studies in Australia and Japan describe how the prison regime can favorably influence NCD risk factors, thus showing that improvement of prison regimes and environments in such a way that favors health promotion and reduces modifiable risk factors is possible. The challenge remains to ensure that every prison provides a healthy diet and ample opportunities for physical activity."

In a joint comment, Dr Frank W. Arnold, the Director of research, Oxford Wound Healing Unit, Medical rapporteur for Freedom from Torture and Helen Bamber Foundation, and co-founder, Medical Justice Network stated,

"In countries where the frequency and duration of incarceration are rising, the incidence and consequences of non-communicable diseases will inevitably increase in parallel with an aging population in jail. An increase in the incidence of non-communicable diseases will magnify problems associated with management of disorders such as diabetes and epilepsy, and prisoners could be accused (rightly or wrongly) of manipulating their treatment for nefarious ends, potentially resulting in dangerous neglect.

Ultimately, the most important potentially modifiable factor in prisoners' environment is imprisonment itself. Since much international variation exists in the rates at which people are incarcerated and the reasons why this happens, there seems to be substantial scope for beneficial reform. But such reform is a political question, not a medical one."

Further researches and extensive monitoring are needed to make effective interventions in the vulnerable, prison population.

References :

Prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable diseases in prison populations worldwide: a systematic review; Dr.Katharine et al; The Lancet Online Publication 2012

Source: Medindia

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