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Connecting Data to Save Lives

Summary: 
On December 6 and 7, more than 50 coding teams will have 24 hours to help us develop data-driven solutions to the opioid epidemic.

 Each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die from drug overdoses, 91 specifically due to opioids.

These numbers are staggering and disturbing, but having a clearer picture of the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic across the nation can help us target interventions and develop new solutions to end it. To do this, we need data. Lots of data. We have to understand the epidemic in order to stop it.

We at the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) put out a call and more than 300 data scientists, programmers, coders and public health experts raised their hands to help us develop data-driven solutions to the opioid epidemic with the common goal of saving lives.

Over the last four months, our team has been working with our colleagues at HHS and data stewards from private industry and at the state and local level to compile data sets for the Code-a-Thon. On December 6 and 7, more than 50 coding teams will have 24 hours to work with these data and develop solutions to address one of three challenge questions:

  • How can we help federal, state, and local stakeholders improve access to effective treatment and recovery services?
  • How can we help federal, state, and local stakeholders identify at-risk populations and their underlying risk characteristics of opioid misuse or abuse?
  • How can we help federal, state, and local stakeholders predict and analyze the supply and movement of legal and illicit opioids?

Opioids Code-a-thon December 6 and 7

In addition to data from HHS, we have data from other federal agencies, including the US. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and data from state and local agencies including those in Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Washington, and North Carolina.

We have coding teams from across the country coming to Washington, D.C. for this event including teams from Nashville, TN; Austin, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Chapel Hill, NC and East Lansing, MI, to name a few.

The Symposium on December 6 will bring together leaders on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and influential leaders in health, data and technology to discuss how data and technology can be used to address the opioid epidemic. Many of the speakers at the symposium work with data and technology to address the opioid epidemic, which has proven successful in their communities.

Complex health crises like the opioid epidemic require a diverse group of stakeholders at the table and that is why we are bringing together state and local leaders, law enforcement, data stewards and policy leaders for two days with the common goal of developing innovative solutions to address the opioid epidemic and save lives.

An important value of the Office of the CTO is the notion that we alone do not have all the answers. We look for input from a variety of stakeholders to develop solutions to solve problems.

This epidemic has affected countless lives, families, communities and professions. This event is just one piece of the puzzle and will build on the important work taking place in communities across the country. The event also builds upon efforts already underway at HHS.  In April 2017, the Department launched its comprehensive, evidence-based Opioid Strategy that provides the overarching framework to leverage the expertise and resources of HHS agencies in a strategic and coordinated manner. The HHS Opioid Strategy aims to:

  • Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
  • Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
  • Support cutting-edge research
  • Advance the practice of pain management

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning Evaluation created a Data Brief for Code-a-thon participants to create an overview of the data sources that could be leveraged to study the opioid crisis within each of the five HHS strategic areas, highlight some of the key research questions within these areas, and summarize data linking strategies that can be used to support research on opioids. 

If you are joining us on December 6 and 7 in Washington, DC, I want to personally say “Thank you.” Thank you for your work, thank you for your ideas and thank you for coming together with one common goal, saving lives.

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