By AMBER GINTER
Southern Ohio Today
When it comes to staying healthy and safe this holiday season, COVID-19 is at the forefront nationwide. At Ohio University, one Professor pleas for hospitals to not lose sight of the opioid epidemic.
Amid an ever-increasing and rapidly spreading virus, Berkeley Franz, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, continues to focus her attention on the opioid epidemic, one of the largest public health crises in the United States.
In her work with Cory Cronin, Ph.D., assistant professor in Ohio’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, and José Pagán, Ph.D., professor of public health policy and management at New York University, the trio published “What Strategies Are Hospitals Adopting to Address the Opioid Epidemic? Evidence From a National Sample of Nonprofit Hospitals. Identifying how hospitals could address this problem in their hometown, Franz looks to Ohio’s leaders for much-needed changes.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic was the most vexing health problem. High rates of addiction were cited as one of the main reasons that American life expectancy declined in multiple years, something we rarely see,” Franz said. ” At the same time, opioid misuse increased to be the greatest cause of preventable death. This study shows that hospitals can play a clear and important role in implementing interventions and effectively treating patients, especially if they are willing to do so on-site.”
Noting that hospitalized opioid patients often lack evidence-based programs at most hospitals, Franz’s research aims to address the most critical public health needs in communities. It’s noted that patients treated at the hospital rather than through a referral result in more effective treatment methods.
“With opioid misuse, people often end up in hospitals for care, which is a great place to address other, secondary health consequences that come from the misuse. Aside from an actual overdose itself, people can get infections at the injection site, heart and skin infections, infectious diseases linked to intravenous drug use, and more,” Franz said. “By taking care of these individuals in a hospital setting, medical professionals can also address these issues as well as introduce treatment for the underlying substance use disorder.”
Analyzing data from a 20% sample of all U.S. hospitals to determine what method would best address opioid abuse, the results showed that while hospitals use clinical strategies and risk education, medication-assisted treatment and harm reduction initiatives, such as distributing naloxone or syringe exchanges could be helpful.
“While individual health needs assessments and implementation strategies are publicly available, we hope that by aggregating strategies and trends, we can provide a snapshot of the overall picture, which may be helpful to decision-makers in health care organizations or public agencies,” Cronin said.
From Ohio University to New York University, Franz’s partnership and investment in this study seek to provide lasting help worldwide.
“We have created a great partnership between Ohio University and New York University researchers interested in the contribution of hospitals to improve the health of our communities,” Pagán said. “I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with this great team and bring awareness to the important leadership role hospitals play in our communities to help reduce opioid abuse.”
Although some hospitals have adopted evidence-based strategies for opioid abuse, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how such programs can be implemented safely and effectively.