Policy Brief: Enhancing Epidemiologic Surveillance to Address the Opioid Epidemic: Overcoming
Challenges and Embracing Opportunities
Keywords: opioid epidemic; health policy; data science; health equity; syndromic surveillance
The United States is currently facing an alarming opioid epidemic, with overdose deaths rising by over 250% between 1999 and 2019. Synthetic opioids, polysubstance use, and stimulants have emerged as the primary contributors to this crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, resulting in a 30% surge in overdose deaths in 2020, with indications of continued increases over time. Not only has this crisis taken a devastating toll on public health, but it has also imposed an immense financial burden, with costs reaching approximately $1.5 trillion in 2020 alone. To effectively address this multifaceted issue, it is imperative to adopt a comprehensive approach that encompasses epidemiology, clinical practices, and forensic investigations. Crucially, accurate and comprehensive data on opioid overdoses are vital for the development of evidence-based strategies. This policy brief highlights the urgent need to improve data infrastructure and collection methods, establish standardized definitions, and harness the potential of modern data science techniques. By prioritizing public health, fostering collaborations, and allocating necessary resources, we can effectively combat the opioid crisis and work towards a healthier future for all.
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Background header image courtesy of Common Wealth Fund
Ebony D. Johnson is a sociology doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, specializing in the social determinants of neuropsychiatric health and research methods. She recently completed the Rollins Epidemiology Fellowship at Emory University, working as a substance use epidemiologist. Ebony is also a Science Policy Scholar-in-Residence with the National Science Policy Network. She holds an M.Sc. in epidemiologic science, an M.A. in sociology, and a Joint B.S. in public health/women's and gender Studies.
I would like to thank Beatrice King for her feedback on this paper.
I would like to thank Beatrice King for her feedback on this paper.
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