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Open Access Research article

Cardiovascular risk among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal smoking male prisoners: inequalities compared to the wider community

Robyn L Richmond1*, Kay A Wilhelm234, Devon Indig56, Tony G Butler7, Vicki A Archer5 and Alex D Wodak8

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Kensington, 2052. Australia

2 Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Kensington, 2052, Australia

3 Psychiatry, St Vincent's Hospital. Darlinghurst, 2010. Australia

4 Faces in the Street, St Vincent's Health Urban Mental Health Research, St Vincent's Hospital. Darlinghurst, 2010. Australia

5 Centre for Health Research in Criminal Justice, NSW Justice Health, Pagewood, 2035, Australia

6 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Kensington, 2052. Australia

7 National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales. Kensington, 2052. Australia

8 Alcohol and Drug Service, St. Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, 2010. Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:783  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-783

Published: 10 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) were collected as part of a randomised controlled trial of a multi-component intervention to reduce smoking among male prisoners. Cross-sectional baseline data on CVRF were compared among smoking male prisoners and males of similar age in the general population.

Methods

425 smoking prisoners were recruited (n = 407 in New South Wales; 18 in Queensland), including 15% of Aboriginal descent (mean age 33 years; median sentence length 3.6 years). We measured CVRF such as smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, risky alcohol use, symptoms of depression, and low socioeconomic status.

Results

We found that 39% of prisoners had 3+ CVRF, compared to 10% in a general community sample of most disadvantaged men of a similar age. Significantly more Aboriginal prisoners had 3+ CVRF than non-Aboriginal prisoners (55% vs 36%, p < 0.01) and were twice as likely to have 4+ CVRF (27% vs 12%). In addition to all prisoners in this study being a current smoker (with 70% smoking 20+ cigarettes per day), the prevalence of other CVRF was very high: insufficient physical activity (23%); hypertension (4%), risky drinking (52%), symptoms of depression (14%) and low socioeconomic status (SES) (44%). Aboriginal prisoners had higher levels of risky alcohol use, symptoms of depression, and were more likely to be of low SES.

Conclusion

Prisoners are at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease compared to even the most disadvantaged in their community and should be the focus of specific public health interventions.

Trial Registration

This trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN#12606000229572.