In recognition of the need for a national coordinated and collective response to the epidemic of opioid addiction in the U.S., the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), in partnership with the Aspen Institute, launched a public-private partnership made up of more than 35 organizations representing federal, state, and local governments, health systems, associations and provider groups, health education and accrediting institutions, pharmacies, payers, industry, nonprofits, and academia. This partnership — the NAM Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic — is committed to sharing knowledge, aligning ongoing initiatives, and addressing complex challenges that require a shared response from public and private actors. The collaborative will establish shared priorities, identify unmet needs, and develop and disseminate evidence-based, multi-sector solutions to reduce rates of opioid misuse and improve outcomes for individuals, families, and communities affected by addiction.
“Since it was declared a public health emergency in October 2017, so many organizations are working around the clock to reverse the opioid epidemic, yet progress has been slow,” said Victor J. Dzau, NAM president and chair of the collaborative. “The problem is clearly not absence of will, but insufficient alignment and coordination across sectors. The complex drivers of the opioid epidemic make it impossible for any single organization or professional sector to make a significant impact on its own. This one-of-a-kind public-private partnership will bring stakeholders from government, academia, the health care industry, health education, and communities impacted by addiction under the same roof to build collective solutions and accelerate the pace of progress.”
Since 1999, the number of opioid-related deaths — from both prescription opioids and illegal drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil — has quadrupled. Driven in large part by the opioid epidemic, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., resulting in 170 deaths every day. Addiction and overdose not only destroy individual lives, but erode the health and prosperity of entire families and communities. The economic toll is significant; according to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the opioid crisis cost $504 billion in 2015, or 2.8 percent of gross domestic product.
The collaborative will focus on areas such as the over-prescription of opioids for treatment of pain, where progress requires the involvement of clinicians, researchers, and regulators; inadequate health provider education and training, for which improvement depends on the commitment of educators, accrediting institutions, and specialty organizations across the health professions; and under-treatment of opioid use disorders, which requires health industry innovation and collaboration with policymakers and care providers at all levels to achieve progress.
The collaborative’s steering committee includes leadership from U.S. government, health care industry, philanthropy, and the nonprofit and education sectors. In addition to Dzau and co-founding partner Ruth Katz, vice president and executive director of the Health, Medicine, and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, the initiative is co-chaired by ADM Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health and senior advisor for mental health and opioid policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Jonathan Perlin, president of clinical service and chief medical officer at HCA Healthcare. Other members of the steering committee are Helen Burstin, executive vice president and chief executive officer for the Council of Medical Specialty Societies; Thomas Nasca, president and chief executive officer of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education; and Alonzo Plough, chief science officer and vice president of research-evaluation-learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“It is clear that no single institution nor sector can solve the opioid crisis alone,” said Giroir. “The only viable approach to addressing the opioid misuse epidemic, the most pressing public health challenge of our time, is through multi-sector collaboration and a patient-centered approach. This collaborative brings the best from academia, industry, nonprofits, and public service to identify opportunities and recommend bold action plans to yield results.”
“The Aspen Institute is honored to be partnering with the National Academy of Medicine to address this pressing public health epidemic,” said Katz. “The action collaborative builds on our previous work, bringing together all the key players to develop and support a national, coordinated response to the crisis. This is exactly the kind of focus, commitment, and engagement long needed to get the job done.”
“With the privilege of 30 million patient care episodes annually, HCA Healthcare brings broad clinical insight and commits support to the National Academy of Medicine’s critical work to galvanize the public and private sectors in effectively combating the root causes of the opioid epidemic,” said Perlin.
Included among the collaborative’s supporting organizations are: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), Department of Veterans Affairs, Aetna, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Aspen Institute, Association of American Medical Colleges, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Council of Medical Specialty Societies, Federation of State Medical Boards, HCA Healthcare, Milken Institute, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Collaborative members will establish goals and working groups to develop collective strategies in priority areas identified at the first meeting on July 27, such as education and training; prescribing guidelines and evidence standards; treatment and community approaches; communication, culture, and stigma; and research and data. Future activities will include meetings and workshops, expert publications, public engagement strategies, and the development of an information hub to share knowledge and best practices, among other efforts. Visit nam.edu/opioidcollaborative for more information and to see a complete list of participating organizations.
The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
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