Data monitoring and prison health systems in Ukraine on Steering Group agenda


Enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right. Prisoners should have the same standard of medical care as people living in the community. These principles form the basis for WHO/Europe and its partners’ commitment to improving health in prisons. The healthy prison concept reinforces the idea that the health and well-being of prisoners is not the sole responsibility of those providing health care in a prison, but is also dependent upon the regime and ethos of each establishment.

The Health in Prisons Programme (HIPP) Steering Group meets once per year to discuss issues related to the work of WHO/Europe and partner organizations; this year the meeting was held in Copenhagen on 4–5 May. The meeting included a session on the prison health system in Ukraine, based on an assessment report produced by WHO consultant Dr Andreij Slavukij. The report shows the urgent need for reform of the prison health system, particularly to combat issues such as the high prevalence of HIV. Partner organizations and representatives from the WHO Country Office in Ukraine also provided input on the situation and their work in the country, and expressed their commitment to continue providing support. Dr Fredrick Altice, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale University, noted that alongside any systemic issues relating to the health systems, the caste system among prisoners in former Soviet Union countries has a significant impact not only on prisoners’ health but also the provision of health care within prison settings.

WHO develops minimum public health dataset to bridge evidence gap

Another issue discussed during the meeting was data monitoring and surveillance of prison health. There is a lack of comprehensive, consistent and reliable public health data on prison populations and their health needs. Furthermore, the limited data available indicates a higher prevalence of infectious disease, chronic illness and hazardous behaviour (e.g. injecting drug use) in the prison population, compared to the general population. WHO/Europe is currently developing a minimum public health dataset on prison health, funded by the Ministry of Health, Finland. The data source is a survey instrument sent to all Member States, which was developed together with several partner organizations to ensure consistency and avoid overlap with other databases. The database will be available online through the WHO Global Health Observatory in the fall of 2017. The aim of the database, which will include indicators on 7 key domains of prison health in WHO European Region countries, is to provide national and regional data to inform and support improvement of prison health systems.

The HIPP Steering Group meeting was made possible with the financial support of the Ministry of Health, Finland.