10 Recommendations for Improving Data-Driven Communication about the Opioid Epidemic

by Andy Krackov, MA, and Erika G. Martin, PhD, MPH


With a 200% increase in the rate of opioid-involved deaths since 2000, many US states and the federal government have declared states of public health emergency. In response, many state and local health departments are developing opioid data dashboards with visualizations, descriptive information, and downloadable data or reports.

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Opioid data dashboards can potentially improve our understanding of the opioid epidemic, facilitate community planning, promote evidence-based decision-making, and support monitoring and evaluation. Yet will these data dashboards meet these goals?

Most public health surveillance resources are devoted to collecting and using data for analysis, rather than for communication or orienting communities toward action. As health agencies develop opioid data dashboards, we offer ten recommendations for improving data-driven communication about the opioid epidemic.

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Andy Krackov, MA

Andy Krackov’s career has focused on the intersection of data and community-level action. His consultancy, Hillcrest Advisory, works with social sector organizations on the front lines of local change to help them communicate numbers effectively and tell stories with data, in order to transform facts into impact. 

 

 

 

Erika Martin, PhD, MPH

Erika Martin, PhD, MPH, is Associate Professor and PhD Director at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany-SUNY. As an applied health policy researcher, she uses mixed methods to evaluate issues related to the allocation of scarce public health resources, the adoption and impact of public health policies, with a focus on domestic HIV and related syndemics. She also studies ways to improve the sustainability and impact of open data platforms. Articles she’s written have appeared in an array of leading health and public policy journals such as the New England Journal of MedicineJournal of the American Medical AssociationHealth AffairsAmerican Journal of Public HealthPublic Administration Review, and Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

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