Real-time data are essential for Covid-19. They’re just as important for the opioid overdose crisis

David Patterson Silver WolfDavid Patterson Silver Wolf, associate professor at the Brown School


As the Covid-19 epidemic sweeps across the country leaving death and confusion in its wake, let’s not forget the other epidemic — opioid overdose deaths — that continues to do the same thing and that was until just a few months ago considered to be the greatest public health crisis of this generation.

I’m fascinated, and appalled, by one huge difference between them: data.

The curious, the worried, the obsessed, and the scientific community can follow the effects of Covid-19 in real time. There are a number of online dashboards tracking the outbreak worldwide as well as here in the United States.

Within a few weeks from the time the first cases were diagnosed in Wuhan, China, anyone with an internet connection could monitor the spread and effects of Covid-19. More importantly, elected leaders, scientists, and health care workers can see these data and use them to inform their responses and their choices of interventions in real time. This is enormously helpful. Indeed, an intervention without such real-time outcome data is like working in the dark.

The consequences of not having real-time data for any public health crisis is lethal.

Read the full piece in STAT.

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