McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Study shows not enough funding for prison health research

Published: January 11, 2017
Dr. Fiona Kouyoumdjian
Dr. Fiona Kouyoumdjian - Lead author of the study

Hamilton, ON (Jan. 10, 2017) – Little money is spent researching the health of prisoners in Canada, even though this is a large population with a disproportionate burden of illness, says a new study from McMaster University.

In the study, published in CMAJ Open, researchers looked at the proportion and number of grants awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the national research agency, from 2010 to 2014. They found that for every $100 of funding from CIHR, less than five cents was spent on prison health research. They found one in every 1,000 grants from CIHR was for prison health research, with total funding per year for this area being less than $500,000.

"The health status of people who spend time in jails and prisons in Canada is poor compared to the general population, with high rates of mental illness, substance use disorders, and infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C," said Dr. Fiona Kouyoumdjian, the study's lead author.

"We need research to understand and improve health and the health care system, and more research could contribute to better health and health care for people who spend time in jails and prisons."

Kouyoumdjian is an assistant clinical professor of family medicine at McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She said this is the first study to quantify funding for prison health research in Canada.

She said Canadian correctional facilities hold an average of 40,000 people on any given day, and an estimated one in 250 adults spend time incarcerated in Canada each year.

Kouyoumdjian said her team's findings will increase awareness of the lack of research funding focused on the health of prisoners in Canada. She hopes that it will also "lead to a greater focus on supporting health research in this population, for example through targeted funding opportunities."

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