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Prison Health Survey Welcomed by the Maori Party

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Prison Health Survey Welcomed by the Maori Party

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Tariana Turia, Health Spokesperson for the Maori Party, today welcomed the release of the Prisoner Health Survey 2005 as a benchmark from which to ensure inadequate prisoner healthcare is no longer accepted as ‘good enough’.

“For too long, New Zealand prisoners have been short-changed on their basic right to an entitlement to excellent health care” said Mrs Turia.

“The very first sentence of the report says it all…’the health of prisoners should not deteriorate as a consequence of imprisonment’ said Mrs Turia.

“We know that many inmates enter prison often in poor health and having only infrequently accessed health services. They bring with them only a limited amount of information about their health status, and this is particularly so for Maori”.

“This report gives us a strong basis from which to identify the areas that will need increased investment if we are to improve health levels” said Mrs Turia.

“Unless we treat our prisoners with the highest standard of healthcare, they will take all of their illnesses and serious health problems back into the community. Having access to excellent health care must be a priority in their rehabilitation”.

“It is therefore a major concern for the Maori Party that one in three prisoners reported an ‘unmet need’ to see the prison nurse, the prison doctor or any other health professional in the last 12 months”.

“There are obviously concerns around the higher levels of current smoking amongst prisoners than the general population; the fact that one in three prisoners had a past history of communicable diseases, one in fifty prisoners had a history of tuberculosis; and that one in three prisoners reported experiencing toothache in the last month”.

“I am particularly worried about the findings around head injuries” said Mrs Turia. [2/3 prisoners had experienced a head injury at some point in their life. Both Maori males and females were more likely than non-Maori male and females to have experienced a head injury].

“I am also interested as to any explanation for the disproportionate health burden that seems to be falling on Maori males [There was a tendency for more Maori males than non-Maori males to report having learning or remembering difficulties or a psychological / psychiatric condition; and to report hearing difficulties.]

“There are, however, some very positive results” said Mrs Turia. “It is great to see the high levels of daily fruit consumption amongst prisoners” [Maori male prisoners had twice the prevalence; and non-Maori prisoners one-and-a-half times the prevalance of recommended fruit consumption as Maori and non-Maori males in the general population].


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