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Improving health care for inmates and whānau the focus of symposium

Wellington campus

Thursday 7 June 2012 2:45pm

Bridget Robson Symposium co-organiser Bridget Robson

The University of Otago, Wellington in association with Regional Public Health is to hold the first-ever New Zealand symposium on Friday 8 June focusing on health issues and barriers to care faced by people who have been imprisoned, those coming out, and their whānau.

Keynote speakers at ‘Inside and Out’ are the Minister of Whānau Ora and Associate Minister of Health, the Hon. Tariana Turia who will address the symposium at 9.45am, and Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment who will speak at 4.20pm.

‘Inside and Out’ is an all day symposium where participants will hear a wide range of authoritative presenters on practical steps and policies needed to improve the health of current and former inmates. It will also explore opportunities for improved continuity of primary health care for current/former inmates in the Wellington region.

“This event will create a space for dialogue between community, health and social services, and the justice sector leading to greater collaboration” says co-organiser Bridget Robson. “Effective health care at crucial times can support successful reintegration with whānau and community.”

A high proportion of people imprisoned or released from prison, suffer from ill health including: mental health problems, alcohol and substance abuse, chronic diseases, disabilities, injuries, poor oral health and communicable disease. These health issues particularly affect Maori who make up 51% of the prison population.

  • 52% of people in prison suffer from psychotic, mood or anxiety disorders
  • 89% of inmates have had a substance abuse disorder
  • Maori and those on remand are most at risk of suicide
  • Women in prison have higher health needs and greater mental and physical health problems.

The rate of imprisonment in New Zealand is the 11th highest in the OECD with at any one time approximately 20,000 children having a parent ‘doing time’. These children are at also greater risk of poorer health than the wider community, and Māori and Pacific children are disproportionately affected.

Similarly many inmates released from prison often have ongoing health problems which are not addressed and even exacerbated on their release because of multiple barriers to health care such as cost.

Research also shows there is higher mortality rate immediately after release and the risk is even greater with indigenous people. The lack of a formal interface between justice and health sectors regarding health care for people entering and leaving prison contributes to the gaps in continuity of primary health care.

These and other important health issues relating to current and former inmates will be addressed at this unique symposium.

‘Inside and Out’ will take place on Friday June 8, from 9.00am to 5.00pm at the Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, Mein Street, Newtown, Wellington.

For further information contact

Bridget Robson
Associate Dean Māori
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 385 5924


Paula King
Public Health Medicine Registrar
Regional Public Health
Tel 64 4 570 9002

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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