Ireland will showcase its role as the world leader in prison community health to representatives from fourteen countries this week. The delegates will travel to Dublin, from as far and wide as Australia and Norway, to attend a three day best practice workshop in Wheatfield prison. The Irish Red Cross workshop will see inmate volunteers present health and community projects, highlighting the role of peer to peer educators in Irish Prisons.
The international interest in Irish prison health follows the success of the Irish Red Cross Community Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) in Prisons programme. The programme initially piloted in Wheatfield Prison in 2009 and has since rolled out to all fourteen of Ireland’s prisons. Ireland is the first country in the world to apply a community health programme to a prison setting. This week’s workshop is an opportunity for the international Red Cross delegates to obtain an understanding of how the CBHFA programme can be used in their own countries and prison communities.
Within the programme in Ireland, inmate volunteers run health projects based on the needs and vulnerabilities of their prison communities. To date, these projects have included HIV testing, improved hygiene, safe zones and weapons amnesties to reduce incidence of violence, first aid training, and awareness campaigns on the prevention of non-communicable diseases.
The CBHFA initiative benefits over 4,000 prisoners directly and 12,000 indirectly including staff and the families of the prisoners. Evaluation of the programme has demonstrated high impact in terms of improvement within the prison environment as well as projects that have lead to a significant increase in healthcare awareness and prisoner’s personal wellbeing. Since its launch, the programme has gone on to win four awards, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) Award in 2011 for Best Practice in Prison Health.
The CBHFA programme is a partnership programme operated by the Irish Red Cross, Irish Prisons Service and the Educational Training Board. For more information see www.redcross.ie/cbhfa