Cost-effectiveness of universal screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea in US jails

J Urban Health. 2004 Sep;81(3):453-71. doi: 10.1093/jurban/jth130.


Universal screening for the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) of chlamydia and gonorrhea on intake in jails has been proposed as the most effective strategy to decrease morbidity in inmates and to reduce transmission risk in communities after release. Most inmates come from a population that is at elevated risk for STDs and has limited access to health care. However, limited resources and competing priorities force decision makers to consider the cost of screening programs in comparison to other needs. The costs and cost-effectiveness of universal screening in correctional settings have not been documented. We estimated the incremental cost-effectiveness of universal urine-based screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea among inmates on intake in US jails compared to the commonly used practice of presumptive treatment of symptomatic inmates without laboratory testing. Decision analysis models were developed to estimate the cost-effectiveness of screening alternatives and were applied to hypothetical cohorts of male and female inmates. For women, universal screening for chlamydia only was cost-saving to the health care system, averting more health care costs than were incurred in screening and treatment. However, for men universal chlamydia screening cost $4,856 more per case treated than presumptive treatment. Universal screening for both chlamydia and gonorrhea infection cost the health care system $3,690 more per case of pelvic inflammatory disease averted for women and $650 more per case of infection treated for men compared to universal screening for chlamydia only. Jails with a high prevalence of chlamydia and gonorrhea represent an operationally feasible and cost-effective setting to universally test and treat women at high risk for STDs and with limited access to care elsewhere.

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydia Infections / economics
  • Chlamydia Infections / prevention & control*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Female
  • Gonorrhea / economics
  • Gonorrhea / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Prisoners*
  • Prisons / economics*
  • United States