October 31, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 318 — Harnessing data to reduce overdose deaths

Indiana University researchers are working to reduce the number of opioid deaths in Indiana by providing timely data to improve resources and services that help people who use drugs stay as healthy as possible.

Using a five-year, $5.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the researchers will work with overdose fatality review teams in 19 Indiana counties to measure and improve the effectiveness of harm-reduction practices. The goal is to save more lives by providing more timely reporting of data, including which local systems individuals interact with on a broader scale.

Pediatrics Professor Matthew Aalsma says Indiana is in an overdose crisis, with hundreds of overdose events regularly occurring in the state and many people dying. Aalsma says timely data can improve local public health interventions, which researchers believe will help prevent overdoses.

Modeled after other mortality review teams, overdose fatality review teams review the factors that may have contributed to a person’s death from overdose and then use that information to inform local policies, procedures, and interventions. The CDC considers the teams a best practice for addressing overdose deaths.

Using data available through state partners, including the Indiana Department of Health, the researchers will work with county-based local overdose fatality review teams to provide timelier overdose event and death data to improve local action.

Khairi Reda, an associate professor of data science at IU, will work with local and state partners to aggregate data from across Indiana and create visualizations to illustrate opportunities to deliver harm-reduction services to individuals who are at an elevated risk of overdose.

Reda says Indiana has made good investments and progress in data integration across the state. He says researchers will put the data into action and use it to discover how to prevent overdose deaths and improve the lives of people in Indiana.