Interventions to address the opioid epidemic in the United States often aim to improve pain management, access to medication-assisted treatment, and use of overdose-reversing drugs. Yet, public health experts have also long recognized the impact of social determinants on health outcomes, such as socioeconomic status, education, and social support.
In the white paper Unburying the Lead: Public Health Tools Are the Key to Beating the Opioid Epidemic (PDF—970.24 KB), Dayna Bowen Matthew of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy proposes strategies to address the needs for reform in housing, employment, community engagement, and criminal justice. The paper suggests immediate action steps based on six recommendations from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (PDF—2,800 KB). Further, it describes the historical context of the opioid epidemic and draws upon lessons learned from public health crises of the past to provide a way forward.