HHS Drives Data-Based Solutions With Opioid Code-a-Thon

The HHS opioid code-a-thon is to spur data-driven solutions that help identify at-risk populations, improve access to treatment and analyze opioid supplies.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is hoping to spur data-driven solutions that address treatment, usage and prevention of opioid overdoses through an opioid code-a-thon that's attracted 50 teams competing for three $10,000 prizes.

Bruce Greenstein, HHS Chief Technology Officer, wrote for the HHS blog that the agency asked about 300 scientists for help in fighting the national opioid epidemic, declared a national public health emergency in October.

It's an all hands on deck situation, as Fedscoop reported from the proceeding opioid symposium. After telling attendees of the symposium preceding the competition that when it comes to the opioid crisis, the government is "stuck, and it needs help," Greenstein said he hopes to hold additional opioid code-a-thons across the country.

An important value of the Office of the CTO is the notion that we alone do not have all the answers. We look for input from a variety of stakeholders to develop solutions to solve problems, " he said.

The opioid code-a-thon is just one piece of the puzzle, and builds on work taking place at HHS and on state and local levels, said Greenstein.

Opioid Code-a-Thon Required Massive Federal Data Effort

In advance of the opioid code-a-thon, HHS prepared a data brief of sources ready to be leveraged to study and propose solutions for the opioid crisis.

HHS Chief Data Officer Mona Siddiqui told attendees that 70 data sets in all were compiled for the Washington, D.C. opioid code-a-thon. Data is from HHS, the US. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as from state and local agencies, including those in Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Washington and North Carolina.

In April, HHS announced its five-point opioid strategy:

  • Improve access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services
  • Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
  • Support cutting-edge research
  • Advance the practice of pain management

Greenstein told Fedscoop that after the opioid code-a-thon, HHS will work with winning teams to facilitate testing and scaling opportunities with state and local government stakeholders.

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