Analysis of health and prescription data suggests chronic health conditions in U.S. incarcerated people may be severely undertreated

April 25, 2023
Findings suggest conditions go untreated in prison inmates compared to general population.

Chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, HIV infection, and mental illness may be greatly undertreated in the U.S. jail and prison population, suggests a new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For their analysis, the researchers used national health survey data covering 2018 to 2020 to estimate rates of chronic conditions among recently incarcerated people, and a commercial prescription database to estimate the distribution of medication treatments to the jail and prison population. Their analysis suggests that for many common and serious conditions, incarcerated people are substantially less likely to be treated compared to the general U.S. population.

The study found that recently incarcerated individuals with type 2 diabetes represented about 0.44 percent of the U.S. burden of the condition but got only 0.15 percent of oral anti-hyperglycemic medications—nearly a threefold difference. Incarcerated individuals with asthma accounted for 0.85 percent of the total U.S. asthma population, but just 0.15 percent of asthma treatment volume, a more than fivefold difference.

The study was published online April 14 in JAMA Health Forum.

Johns Hopkins release

Photo 52014560 © Bogdanhoda | Dreamstime.com
Photo 18517528 © Christophe Avril | Dreamstime.com
Photo 108389214 © Ivan Shidlovski | Dreamstime.com
Photo 293671412 © Nataliagh | Dreamstime.com