Charting a pathway to health equity in correctional settings


Deborah Shelton*

As the nation’s nurses raise their unified voices in response to the National Academies of Medicine’s (NAM) report on the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 (NAM, 2021), there is a need for leadership in the translation of these national recommendations to the world of correctional health care. The vision proposed through this report by the discipline of Nursing is that the challenges of the US healthcare system are linked to the fact that equity and health equity do not exist. Supported by research evidence linking Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) and health outcomes, the failure to address SDoH as a link to the underlying causes of disease risks perpetuates a cycle of health disparities and inequality (Lipman, 2019). The proposed national strategy is to invest in and strengthen the nursing workforce, enhancing the diversity of the nursing workforce and optimizing use of nursing expertise. As the largest and most trusted segment of the healthcare workforce, nurses have a history of tackling many social and economic drivers that affect health. There are many questions yet to be answered as the blueprint for the Future of Nursing Campaign for Action unfolds. Implications for care provided to incarcerated patients in need of nursing services in prisons, jails, and detention centers must be examined for ways to leverage the capacity of the nursing workforce already diminished by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to advance health equity and access to care.

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