Exploring concepts of health with male prisoners in three category-C English prisons

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Woodall, J (2010)

Lay understandings of health and illness have a well established track record and a plethora of research now exists which has examined these issues. However, there is a dearth of research which has examined the perspectives of those who are imprisoned. This paper attempts to address this research gap. The paper is timely given that calls have been made to examine lay perspectives in different geographical locations and a need to re-examine health promotion approaches in prison settings. Qualitative data from thirty-six male sentenced prisoners from three prisons in England were collected. The data was analysed in accordance with Attride-Stirling's (2001) thematic network approach. Although the men's perceptions of health were broadly similar to the general population, some interesting findings emerged which were directly related to prison life and its associated structures. These included access to the outdoors and time out of their prison cell, as well as maintaining relationships with family members through visits. The paper proposes that prisoners' lay views should be given higher priority given that prison health has traditionally been associated with medical treatment and the bio-medical paradigm more generally. It also suggests that in order to fulfil the World Health Organization's (WHO) vision of viewing prisons as health promoting settings, lay views should be recognised to shape future health promotion policy and practice.
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