Good prison health – better public health – safer society (abstract)

Speaker: Zaza Tsereteli (Prison Health Expert Group at the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing, Georgia/Estonia)

The Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being (NDPHS) is a cooperative effort of eleven governments, the European Commission and eight international organizations. The NDPHS provides a forum for concerted action to tackle challenges to health and social wellbeing in the Northern Dimension area, and foremost in north-west Russia. Penal systems within the Northern Dimension area constitute a sector of society where severe health problems persist. The spreading of communicable diseases is especially prevalent within marginalized groups living under socially and economically distressing circumstances, members of which may subsequently enter the penal system. As there are clear links between social disparities, mental disorders, the use of illicit drugs, infectious diseases, and crime and imprisonment, there is a need to share experiences and expertise in the field of prison health. Recognizing this need the NDPHS Committee of Senior Representatives established the Expert Group on Prison Health (PH EG). The PH EG is comprised of high-level experts representing the partners. These experts are from national ministries and agencies of the partner countries, as well as various bodies within the health, social welfare and prison sectors. Last year the Prison Health Expert Group organized the NDPHS conference “Good prison health: Better public health: Safer society” in connection with the Partnership’s 6th Annual Conference, and it took place on 24th November 2009 in Oslo, Norway. The aim of the conference was to generate discussion about the health-needs and health-risks of prisoners before admission to prison, inside the establishment, and after release from the penal system. It also offered policy-makers an opportunity to improve the current system, and enabled the examination of public safety issues from different perspectives, such as health, abuse, family, gender and community. To warrant further developments, several key aspects indispensable to future success were identified: Universal application of basic human rights and respect for the individual dignity of prisoners; Obeying the principle of equivalence in the provision of health care services; Establishment of harm-reduction and other preventive actions; The penal authorities should establish better follow-up systems for newly released offenders to ensure that their care is continued in the community; Finally, a draft “Declaration on the Principles of Cooperation between Prison Health and Public Health Services and Development of a Safer Society” was introduced and adopted. The participants agreed that the Declaration could be an important instrument to draw attention to the penitentiary health as an integral part of the public health system of any country. To that end it is necessary for prison health services – as well as public health services – to bear equal responsibility for health in prisons.

CV: Zaza Tsereteli was born in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Education: In 1988 he graduated Tbilisi State Medical University with the Honoured Diploma (M.D.); in 2000, he graduated from the International Courses of Health Development, at the Royal Tropical Medical Institute (KIT), Amsterdam-Netherlands; he has been awarded the degree of Masters of Public Health; Career: Currently Zaza Tsereteli is working as an International Technical Advisor for the two Expert Groups under the Northern Dimension Partnership on Health and Social wellbeing (NDPHS), The Expert Group on Alcohol and Substance Abuse and the Expert Group on Primary Health and Prison Health Systems. His experience is backed up by work with UNODC, TF of CBSS, AIHA, and UNICEF; he worked at UNODC as a Regional HIV/AIDS advisor for Ukraine and Moldova. He was responsible for providing ongoing technical guidance and policy advic,e particularly to the governments of Ukraine and Moldova on the UNODC HIV/AIDS key policy and programmatic areas; when working at NDPHS as an international technical advisor on HIV/AIDS he gave technical support and backup to the HIV/AIDS component of the Barents Euro-Arctic Area initiative as a director for the Multilateral-Multisectoral Program on HIV/AIDS; he also acted as an international technical advisor for Expert Group on HIV/AIDS for EU/NDPHS, which included 13 countries and 8 International organizations; at UNICEF Georgia Country Office he was project officer in EPI/Disease Control; Expertise: Zaza Tsereteli has sixteen years of senior management experience in Eastern Europe and Baltic countries; he has extensive experience in heading and supporting projects focussed on Public Health prevention and intervention strategies; he has experience of working at high level with ministries and stakeholders alike; he is familiar with the international policies related to HIV, TB and Malaria and in designing and management of sector reform programmes in the field of health, including coordination the work of multiple stakeholders he is a member of International Society of Infectious diseases, member of the EU Think Tank on HIV/AIDS, member of the International AIDS Society, and member of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.