National Health Care Surveys

National Survey of Prison Health Care


First NSPHC report on health care services in U.S. prisons [PDF – 732 KB]


National-level data concerning the administration of health care services in correctional facilities in the United States are lacking. To help remedy this gap in knowledge, in 2010 the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) partnered with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to develop and conduct the National Survey of Prison Health Care (NSPHC). The three major goals of NSPHC were to identify how information on prisoner health care delivery is organized and maintained within the prison health care system; gather data on the structure and provision of health care delivery in U.S. prison systems and to assess the quality and comparability of these data across states; and determine the appropriate methods for collecting information on correctional health care in the future.


To collect data for NSPHC at a national level, NCHS staff targeted one or more respondents within each of the 50 state Departments of Corrections as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and conducted telephone interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire. NSPHC respondents typically had job titles related to medical or mental health care fields. These often included medical directors or deputy directors, directors or deputy directors of nursing or mental health, chief medical officers, and health services administrators. The reference period for the data collection was calendar year 2011. NSPHC data collection began in October 2012 and continued through March 2013. The interview consisted of 10 topic areas, many of which involved multiple related questions. Major topic areas consisted of the following: contracting of services; staffing; location of delivery of services, including specialty services; admissions process; infectious disease, health risk, and mental health intake testing; admissions and custody numbers; and major challenges to providing health care in correctional settings.

At the conclusion of data collection in March 2013, NCHS staff had collected data from 45 states via semi-structured telephone interviews with respondents (43 states) and written submissions (2 states). Five states (Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia) and the BOP did not participate in NSPHC.

Questionnaire, Dataset and Related Documentation:

The 2011 NSPHC data are now available to the public.  To obtain these data, please submit a Data Use Agreement [PDF – 102 KB] (instructions noted on the form). Please read the Limitations of NSPHC Data document [PDF – 231 KB] before proceeding with analysis.

Additional supporting documents are available for download here:

For more information, please contact the Ambulatory and Hospital Care Statistics Branch.

Survey Results/Products: