Health despite bars: Asia-Pacific region tackles state of prison health

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Detainees all over the world would hopefully have better health conditions, as around 150 health care specialists from 21 countries discussed topics including health care for women and other vulnerable groups, mental health, drug addiction, and international standards for prison health, a press release from the International Committee of the Red Cross furnished to DNX said.

Prison managers and other staff are just as responsible for prisoners’ health. As such, the regional prison health conference in Manila gathered 150 health and detention authorities, academics and public health experts from 20 countries to share experiences, challenges and best practices.
Prison managers and other staff are just as responsible for prisoners’ health. As such, the regional prison health conference in Manila gathered 150 health and detention authorities, academics and public health experts from 21 countries to share experiences, challenges and best practices.|Photo furnished by ICRC

The participants, organized by the IRC ran from 13 to 15 of November and was held in Manila.

ICRC hopes that as a result of the conference, inmates – four million of which are in the Pacific and Asia – would enjoy better health care as a result of better coordination between prison management and health providers, as well as protection of their fundamental rights as humans.

“We’re all involved in providing care to people in custody. Coming to a conference allows us to find out what’s working in some places, what’s not working so well… share our experiences. The reason why we’re all here is to improve care for people who are in detention,” said participant Fiona Montroy, clinical nurse consultant of Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network in New South Wales, Australia.

Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases are significantly prevalent in prisons, and may spread to the community through staff, visitors and released prisoners who received inadequate treatment. This is why for TB and other illnesses, early detection and curative care for inmates must be supported by improving food and nutrition, water, sanitation and having activities for better health.
Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases are significantly prevalent in prisons, and may spread to the community through staff, visitors and released prisoners who received inadequate treatment. This is why for TB and other illnesses, early detection and curative care for inmates must be supported by improving food and nutrition, water, sanitation and having activities for better health. | Photo furnished by ICRC

ICRC regional specialist for the Asia and the Pacific Dr. Ziad Tohme stressed that prisoners, without discrimination, “deserve the same standards of healthcare as are available to the community”.

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III speaks with ICRC Head of Delegation in the Philippines Boris Michel. In his welcome remarks, Secretary Duque said partnerships and collaboration were key in taking prison health reforms forward. “Preventing health problems in places of detention cannot be isolated from the general public,” he added.
Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III speaks with ICRC Head of Delegation in the Philippines Boris Michel. In his welcome remarks, Secretary Duque said partnerships and collaboration were key in taking prison health reforms forward. “Preventing health problems in places of detention cannot be isolated from the general public,” he added. Photo furnished by ICRC

However, proper health care within detention centers could be a challenge, with systems saddled by poor coordination, lack of proper of policies and procedures, and inadequate health staff and facilities, Tohme said.

“To break the cycle of poor health outcomes in prisons, we need to go beyond curative care and examine the inmates’ living conditions. We must look at prison health care from all angles. We must consider prison health as a public health issue if we are to break that cycle,” said ICRC Head of Delegation Boris Michel in his opening remarks. In photo are (from left) Philippine Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Nestor Quinsay, Philippine Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco, and Thomas Hiatt, technical officer of the World Health Organization.
“To break the cycle of poor health outcomes in prisons, we need to go beyond curative care and examine the inmates’ living conditions. We must look at prison health care from all angles. We must consider prison health as a public health issue if we are to break that cycle,” said ICRC Head of Delegation Boris Michel in his opening remarks. In photo are (from left) Philippine Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Nestor Quinsay, Philippine Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco, and Thomas Hiatt, technical officer of the World Health Organization. | Photo furnished by ICRC

These are also aggravated by poor living conditions in many prisons across the world, leading to the spread of communicable diseases, the worsening of pre-existing conditions, as well as the contracting new ailment which could have been prevented through proactive health care and remedies such as proper food and nutrition, water, Tohme added.

Expressing their support for the prison health conference were (at left) Jail Director Allan Iral of the Philippine Bureau of Management and Penology (BJMP) and Director General Gerald Bantag of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCOR).
Expressing their support for the prison health conference were (at left) Jail Director Allan Iral of the Philippine Bureau of Management and Penology (BJMP) and Director General Gerald Bantag of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCOR). Photo furnished by ICRC

The conference, Health Despite Bars, provided participants with a platform for health and detention authorities, academics and public health experts, to “share research and best practices, as well as challenges”.

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