In a keynote address at the GNYHA Foundation and United Hospital Fund 29th Annual Symposium on Health Care Services: Research and Practice, Andrew Kolodny, MD, discussed the causes of and strategies to address the national opioid epidemic.

Dr. Kolodny, Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management’s Opioid Policy Research Collaborative Co-Director, said the epidemic began in 1996 when the number of opioid prescriptions increased substantially, leading to an increase in the rate of overdose deaths and addiction. Nonmedical recreational use of opioids, medical use of long-term prescription opioids, and a combination of both (where a brief medical exposure led to recreational use and ultimately addiction) were identified as three ways addiction begins. Dr. Kolodny discussed other factors contributing to the epidemic, including aggressive marketing, messaging, and the introduction of illicit fentanyl. He concluded with strategies for addressing the epidemic, including medication-assisted treatment and ways the health care system can contribute to ending the crisis.

Dr. Kolodny provides the Symposium’s keynote address

As part of a panel discussion on health disparities, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Deputy Commissioner and Center for Health Equity Founding Director Karen Aletha Maybank, MD, discussed DOHMH’s efforts to address health inequities through organizational change. One such initiative is the Prescribe-a-Bike program, in which doctors offer patients a free one-year Citi Bike membership to encourage daily exercise.

Elizabeth Howell, MD, the Icahn School of Medicine’s Associate Dean for Academic Development and Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science Professor, discussed racial inequities in maternal health and her organization’s research, which focuses on causes of increased risk of maternal morbidity and mortality among black women. Dr. Howell described findings on variations among hospitals and discussed strategies to address racial disparities such as working to eliminate bias, enhance communication, and engage affected communities.

Nadia S. Islam, PhD, NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health Associate Professor, discussed health disparities among New York City’s Asian American population and her research on diabetes within this population, which found that Asian subgroups have poorer self-management and provider management than any other racial or ethnic subgroup. Dr. Islam discussed implementation of a Community Health Worker (CHW) model as an intervention to improve diabetes-related health outcomes within the Asian American community, stressing CHWs’ potential to improve health within underserved communities.