Building on this work and the LBU, NIHR funded study ‘People in Public Health’, further NIHR
funding enabled a study exploring the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of peer interventions
in prison settings. This was conceived and led by LBU, in collaboration with health economists
at the University of Leeds plus two GPs working in prison healthcare.
review, the first comprehensive review on this issue, showed the benefits of peer interventions
for influencing health outcomes, including the management of poor life style choices with increased health risks. The research included ‘expert hearings’ which brought together stakeholders from the prison service, health services and the voluntary sector to identify implications for policy and practice, including how peers could be recruited, trained and supported.
The research showed clear health outcomes from this intervention mode (particularly HIV prevention outcomes), but also provided understanding of context and delivery mechanisms required for success (including the need for organisational buy-in; funding and resource; and a recognition of placing prisoners in positions of relative power and trust).
Research focussing more specifically on prisoners’ families and children has been undertaken by Dixey and Woodall. This research has had academic and sectorial impact in understanding the role of prison visits in maintaining family ties and supporting the wider health and wellbeing of prisoners, their families and their children. This work has highlighted the pivotal role of prison visitors’ centres (in providing practical, social and emotional support to families) and the prison visit (in relation to reduced re-offending) to government and agencies in addressing health and social outcomes for families, children and prisoners themselves. These groups are often the most vulnerable and socially excluded in society. This research has been important as, to date, there is no mandate for prisons to have dedicated facilities for families. The research has demonstrated the positive impact of such facilities in creating healthier prison environments.