Chelsea Clinton: America is suffering an opioid epidemic

Source: BBC

By Chelsea Clinton

Many of the global health challenges I see in 2017 were painfully present and widely acknowledged as challenges in 2016. This is true of specific demographic questions, such as how to help protect public health for refugees and provide refugees health care. It’s also true of methodological questions, such as how to ensure that health is a meaningful part of conversations in other areas, such as climate change, economic development and women’s rights, including the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery.

It’s true when we think about the resources available to global health overall, and the resources allocated to address ‘new’ health threats like Zika, and more ‘familiar’ health threats, including polio or malaria. And, finally, it’s true when we think about questions of governance, of determining what’s on the global health agenda, how that agenda will be addressed and financed, who will do the work, how will that work be judged and how will those judgments hold those doing the work and in charge accountable.

Questions of resource allocation and governance are even more salient in 2017 given a new Director-General will assume leadership at the World Health Organisation (WHO) later this year and donor governments around the world are questioning the value of development assistance, including in health.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Staten Island, a New York City borough, is in the grip of a heroin crisis which has claimed hundreds of lives (Credit: Getty Images)

There is a challenge that – while acknowledged in 2016 – only began to claw its way up the global and domestic agenda last year and deserves a more prominent place in 2017: opioid addiction and overdose. The US Centers for Disease Control recognises that our country is gripped by an ‘opioid overdose epidemic,’ and various studies estimate that 80% of those struggling with opioid use don’t get the help they need. The global gap between need and access to treatment is even greater; the WHO estimates 90% of those who need treatment don’t get it.

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