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ID: HR23-378
Presenting author: Kerryn Drysdale

Presenting author biography:

Dr Kerryn Drysdale is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health at UNSW Sydney. She conducts research at the intersection of social inquiry and public health, particularly in the experiences and expressions of health and wellbeing among marginalised communities.

Can we change public attitudes around the difficult experiences of incarcerated people with histories of injecting drug use? A case study of research translation for and by community

Kerryn Drysdale, Timothy Broady
The transition from prison to community is challenging for all people but is especially heightened for those with a history of injecting drug use. Negative attitudes of the general public, also evident in media reporting and among healthcare and other professionals, can exacerbate these challenges. Identifying ways to positively influence community attitudes towards prisoners with a history of injecting drug use may be an important step in strengthening the effectiveness of efforts in promoting positive post-release transition (and thereby reducing recidivism) among this very vulnerable group of people.

Findings from a qualitative interview-based project drew attention to the difficulties of daily life and the systems-related challenges that people with a history of injecting drug use must navigate when they are newly released from prison. Thematic analysis identified three main themes that collectively characterised their experiences - Exhaustion, Trust, and Structural Competency – all with significant gendered dimensions. Working with community members with lived experience, we translated these themes into creative outputs that could evocatively and compellingly convey these experiences in ways that had benefits for the wider aim of community advocacy.

One of these outputs, Exhaustion, was then used as an attitudinal change intervention that was conducted online with members of the Australian general public to ascertain whether novel forms of research translation have the capacity to change minds. Participants who were shown the creative intervention stimulus reported larger, more positive attitudinal change than either those presented with the same findings in a standard research dissemination format or those who did not receive any intervention. By two-month follow-up, attitudes of both intervention groups reverted to baseline levels. Findings from this intervention project demonstrate the potential for novel forms of research translation to influence public attitudes, however, ongoing investment in messaging is necessary to encourage meaningful, long-term change.