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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

High rate of reported risk behaviors among youth in juvenile corrections: An opportunity for prevention

Sophia Califano1, Phyllis Losikoff, MD2, Edward Feller, MD3, Leanne Simpson, RN4, Joanne Johnson4, Stephen Katz5, Suzanne Riggs, MD4, and Ze'ev Harel, MD4. (1) Brown Medical School, Brown University, Box G, Providence, RI 02906, 401-474-0832, sophRI@excite.com, (2) Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University, Box G, Providence, RI 02906, (3) Community Health, Brown Medical School, BioMed, Providence, RI 02912, (4) Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University, Brown University, Box G, Providence, RI 02906, (5) Rhode Island Training School, Brown University, Box G, Providence, RI 02906

Introduction: Published data indicate that incarcerated juveniles more frequently engage in high risk behaviors, including drug use, inconsistent condom use, and have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than non-incarcerated peers. Compared to adult inmates, however, prevalence of chronic infectious diseases (i.e. Hepatitis C and HIV) is low. We describe high-risk behaviors at a juvenile corrections facility in Rhode Island, using survey data from RI public schools for comparison, in order to assess health risks of detained youths and alert health professionals to an opportunity for effective preventive interventions.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 524 charts of residents and detainees at the state's only juvenile correctional facility. Data collected included self-reported use of cigarettes, alcohol, other drugs of abuse, age of sexual debut, condom use, and history of prior STDs.

Results: The study population included 524 youths (mean age of 15.4 years; range 12-18 years) 80.7% of whom were male. Findings revealed that 55% smoked cigarettes; 69% consumed alcohol; and 68% reported using other drugs of abuse, most commonly marijuana. Over 80% were sexually active with mean age of debut 13.1yrs.; consistent condom use was reported by 56% and prior STD by 6.5%.

Discussion: Rates of high-risk behaviors in these incarcerated youths are increased compared to non-incarcerated RI students. High rates of recidivism from youth to adult prisons, relative good health of detained juveniles when contrasted with adult inmates, documented behaviors increasing risk for disease, and scarcity of consistent non-detention health care create an ideal population for targeted health interventions.

Learning Objectives: Learning points