Re: “Ombuds report urges better food, health care at state prisons” [Nov. 5, Northwest]: Public health is a communal effort undermined by inadequate prison health care.

As a graduate student at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, I have been researching the impacts of prison health-care policies on the prevalence and incidence of hepatitis C in Washington state prisons. Thanks to insufficient health care, people in prison are 17 to 29 times more likely to have HCV than people in the general public. By withholding access to basic health services in prisons we not only compromise the health of those in prisons, but we also weaken the health of our communities.

Eventually, most people in prison will be released, at which point they will expose their friends and family to any untreated illnesses they may have contracted. So, by failing to invest in basic prison health services, we are actually fueling public-health problems.

To protect the well-being of our communities, we need to ensure that health care needs of those in prison are met. Lawmakers can take steps by investing in programs that expand HCV testing and treatment in prisons.

Olivia Krawczyk, Bellevue