By Chris Adams
An annual health data resource now documents deaths from drug overdoses down to the county level, giving journalists a tool to understand trends in the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute maintain the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps website, which allows journalists and the public to drill into detailed statistics on health and death measures.
On health in general, the county rankings document measures such as low birthweight babies, smoking prevalence, obesity and physical activity. Information on states and counties is downloadable, such as this presentation of data from Maryland or this one from Baltimore County. The rankings present statistics and include an assessment of a county’s overall health, in a “How Healthy is Your Community?” analysis.
On opioids specifically, the rankings in 2016 included some additional information on deaths. The measure is calculated as the number of deaths due to drug poisoning per 100,000 population. The data come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its National Center for Health Statistics and are further refined by foundation and university experts.
The foundation has a handful of other measures touching on opioid use and treatment, such as analyses on so-called “Good Samaritan” drug overdose laws, access to naloxone among first responders, and the effectiveness of prescription drug monitoring programs.