Public Policy

Defeating the opioid epidemic

The U.S. Surgeon General weighs in.

Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, is the 20th Surgeon General of the United States, a post created in 1871.

Dr. Jerome Adams is the 20th United States Surgeon General

Dr. Jerome Adams, United States Surgeon General

Dr. Adams holds degrees in biochemistry and psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley; and a medical degree from the Indiana University, Indianapolis. He is a board-certified anesthesiologist and associate clinical professor of anesthesia at Indiana University.

At the 2018 Executive Advisory Board meeting of the Doctors Company, Richard E. Anderson, MD, FACP, chairman and chief executive officer of the Doctors Company, spoke with Dr. Adams about the opioid epidemic’s enormous impact on communities and health services in the United States.

Dr. Richard Anderson is The Doctor's Company chairman and CEO

Dr. Richard Anderson

Dr. Anderson: Dr. Adams, you’ve been busy since taking over as Surgeon General of the United States. What are some of the key challenges that you’re facing in this office?

Dr. Adams: You know, there are many challenges facing our country, but it boils down to a lack of wellness. We know that only 10% of health is due to health care, 20% of health is genetics, and the rest is a combination of behavior and environment.

My motto is “better health through better partnerships,” because I firmly believe that if we break out of our silos and reach across the traditional barriers that have been put up by funding, by reimbursement, and by infrastructure, then we can ultimately achieve wellness in our communities.

You asked what I’ve been focused on as Surgeon General. Well, I’m focused on three main areas right now.

No. 1 is the opioid epidemic. It is a scourge across our country. A person dies every 12½ minutes from an opioid overdose and that’s far too many. Especially when we know that many of those deaths can be prevented.

Another area I’m focused on is demonstrating the link between community health and economic prosperity. We want folks to invest in health because we know that not only will it achieve better health for individuals and communities but it will create a more prosperous nation, also.

And finally, I’m raising awareness about the links between our nation’s health and our safety and security – particularly our national security. Unfortunately, 7 out of 10 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 years old in our country are ineligible for military service. That’s because they can’t pass the physical, they can’t meet the educational requirements, or they have a criminal record.

So, our nation’s poor health is not just a matter of diabetes or heart disease 20 or 30 years down the road. We are literally a less-safe country right now because we’re an unhealthy country.

Dr. Anderson: Regarding the opioid epidemic, what are some of the programs that are available today that you find effective? What would you like to see us do as a nation to respond to the epidemic?

Dr. Adams: Recently, I was at a hospital in Alaska where they have implemented a neonatal abstinence syndrome protocol and program that is being looked at around the country – and others are attempting to replicate it.

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