The national conversation around the opioid epidemic was advanced today with the release of a new report, “Bringing Science to Bear on Opioids.” Prepared by an expert panel formed by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), the exhaustively researched report features dozens of recommendations to address the opioid crisis in the United States. The ASPPH Task Force on Public Health Initiatives to Address the Opioid Crisis said, “If a master settlement agreement is reached in the multi-district litigation currently pending, funds should be used not only to compensate states and communities for expenditures related to the epidemic, but also to prevent it from spreading, ameliorate associated harms, and contain related epidemics.”
The report and related resources are available online here. JAMA on Friday, November 1, published a related viewpoint by Chery Healton (NYU), Sandro Galea (BU) and Task Force Chair Rob Pack (ETSU). The report has been distributed to all state attorneys general and to more than 1,800 lawyers of record in the 2,600+ federal lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers. It has also been distributed to more than 500 reporters and 1200 congressional staff with related portfolios. Prerelease webinars were held for reporters and congressional staff on Thursday, October 31.
ASPPH is holding a special webinar for the public health community on the report, on Monday, November 4 at 2-3 pm EST. Registration is free but required. For those who are unable to join the webinar live, a recording of the webinar and the summary slide set will be available on-line shortly after the webinar concludes. For more information, contact Tony Mazzaschi at advocacy@ASPPH.org.
Detailing the scope of the opioid epidemic in the United States, the panel’s report notes that more Americans die each year from opioid overdoses than died in any armed conflict since the end of World War II; on average, 130 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose; and, overdose is now the leading cause of unintentional injury death, surpassing motor vehicle deaths. Experts cited in the new expert report predict that, without strong efforts to mitigate the problem, the annual number of opioid overdose deaths will reach 82,000 in the year 2025, bringing the total death toll to 700,000 over the 10-year period from 2016-2025.
The Task Force advocates an evidence-based approach, recommending that settlement funds (either directly or indirectly) be directed to initiatives supported by published and peer-reviewed scientific research findings. All recommendations offered by the panel are backed by research cited in the report. The dozens of recommendations have been grouped as follows in the report:
In releasing the report, Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, MPH, chair of the ASPPH Board of Directors, and dean, Boston University School of Public Health, said, “We believe the Task Force’s recommendations, if implemented and adequately resourced, will help advance the treatment of people currently suffering from opioid use disorder, greatly reduce the number of citizens misusing opioids in the future, and begin to heal communities devastated by the opioid crisis.”
The chair of the Task Force, Robert P. Pack, PhD, MPH, associate dean for academic affairs, East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, said, “The opioid crisis is a local, national, and global public health issue that touches all levels of society. The Task Force’s recommendations stress the critical need to reach across sectors and engage all possible resources to address the opioid epidemic and reduce associated harms.”
The Task Force’s recommendations were made within the context of the following foundational principles, upon which Task Force members agreed during the initial phase of their deliberations:
In welcoming the report, ASPPH President and Chief Executive Officer Laura Magaña, PhD, said, “The Association has a key strategic objective to champion the engagement of academic public health and the use of evidence-based science — across all professions and sectors — to solve the critical challenges facing our communities. The sharp increase in the prevalence of opioid use disorder in the United States is exactly the type of critical challenge that demands the engagement of academic public health faculty as well as the use of evidence in related policy initiatives. The Task Force’s report and recommendations are a major contribution to advancing efforts to treat and prevent the abuse of opioids.”
If you have any questions about the report or related materials, please contact Tony Mazzaschi, ASPPH’s Chief Advocacy Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org).