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Morehouse Study: Untreated Prison Illnesses Can Expose Black Communities to Contagious Diseases

Untreated or overlooked illnesses in a prison population can expose whole communities to the risk of infection from a contagious disease, according to a report from the National Center for Primary Care at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

The report, titled “Prison Health and the Health of the Public: Ties that Bind,” found that of the estimated 2.2 million incarcerated men and women, many suffer from HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension or asthma. Even more suffer from undiagnosed or untreated mental illness.

Many health experts correlate the rise of HIV cases among Black women with the return of HIV-positive men after their release from prison.

“Once released, many former prisoners have no access to health insurance and, thus, no entrée to health services,” says the report.

The report says that in 2005, 8.1 percent of Black men between the ages of 25 and 29 were incarcerated, compared to 2.6 percent of Hispanics and 1.1 percent of Whites. The same data show that women represented 7 percent of all prisoners, an increase from 6.1 percent in 1995. Even so, men were at least 14 times more likely to be incarcerated in state and federal prisons. Racial and ethnic disparities appear to be consistent regardless of gender.

Williams says health care workers and policy makers must together work to expand health care coverage, increase the number of health care providers and address barriers to housing and employment among ex-offenders, among other recommendations.

U.S.-born Latinos, Asians and Caribbean Blacks Have Higher Rates of Mental Illness

A new study from the Cambridge Health Alliance has found that rates of psychiatric disorder among U.S.-born Latinos have increased substantially over the past decade.

The study, “Correlates of Past-Year Mental Health Service Use Among Latinos: Results From the National Latino and Asian American Study,” was led by Dr. Margarita Alegría, director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The authors examined data from the National Latino and Asian American Study to use in a national sample of Latinos residing in the United States.

The results: 30.2 percent of Latinas and 28.1 percent of Latinos had a lifetime prevalence rate of any mental disorder. Puerto Ricans had the highest overall prevalence rate among the Hispanic ethnic groups for any disorder. There were higher rates of psychiatric disorders among the U.S.-born, English proficient and third-generation Hispanics, says the study.

A study of immigration and mental disorders among Asians found that, among women, those born in Asian countries had lower rates of mental disorders than those born in the United States. Asian men who spoke English proficiently had lower rates of mental health problems.

A study of the mental health of Black Caribbean immigrants found that, when compared to Black Americans, immigrant women were less likely to suffer mental health problems. Black Caribbean men, however, were more likely to develop mental health issues.

— Diverse staff reports

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