Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Health Science Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Shelley Beatty

Abstract

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a significant health issue in Australia with approximately 90% of new cases attributed to injecting drug use (IDU). With no vaccination for this infection it is important that preventive methods are utilised to reduce the likelihood of it being transmitted from the IDU community into the wider community. Research has suggested that people's beliefs, which are influenced by the knowledge they have, play an important role in influencing the action people take in protecting and promoting their health. While there are numerous studies which have measured the HCV-related knowledge and perceptions of other professions in the community, there did not appear to be research specifically focusing on police. Due to the nature of front-line policing, officers are considered to be at an elevated risk of exposure to HCV. This study investigated the knowledge and perceptions about HCV among a sample of Western Australian (WA) police in training. The sample comprised of 150 pre-service police officers who were undergoing training at the WA Police Academy. There were 121 (80%) Police Recruits and 25 (17%) Cadets included in the sample (4 respondents did not report their role at the Academy). Two thirds of the sample was male and the majority aged between 17 and 27 years. Overall, the results from this study suggested the knowledge of the pre-service police who participated in this research about HCV, was relatively poor. The majority did, however, believe there was a risk of exposure to HCV while working in the community, both for police officers in general (91 %) and for themselves personally (83%). Participants reporting their highest level of education to be secondary school were more likely to perceive themselves to personally be at risk of exposure while on duty than those with a university qualification. Similarly, Police Recruits were more likely to report a personal perceived risk than Cadets. Although the pre-service police were reported to have received some HCV-related training, only 45% of respondents recalled receiving this training. The results from this study uncovered the need for review of the content and delivery of the HCV-related training provided at the WA Police Academy. As this was a small nonrandomised exploratory study the findings cannot be generalised and any further research conducted with this group should ideally utilise a larger randomised sample and utilise a valid and reliable data collection instrument.

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