CHICAGO and WASHINGTON, D.C., March 20, 2018—Today, NORC at the University of Chicago and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) released the Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool, a data visualization tool illustrating the impact of the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian Region and its relation to socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, poverty, education, and disability.
The Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool integrates overdose mortality rates for each Appalachian county with data on unemployment, poverty, and disability, as well as other socioeconomic variables. Users can compare county-level information with regional and national data and see changes in the data between 2006–2010 and 2011–2015. The mapping tool can also generate fact sheets to assist in community planning and response efforts.
The Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool was developed by NORC at the University of Chicago, an objective, non-partisan research institution responsible for many of the most significant research, evaluation, and survey projects done for agencies of the federal government, states, and foundations. The project was done in collaboration with the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments in the Appalachian Region. In August 2017, NORC’s Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis produced a report for ARC titled Appalachian Diseases of Despair, which reveals the extent of mortality rates in Appalachia due to alcoholic liver disease, overdose, and suicide. The study found that in 2015, overdose-related mortality rates for Appalachia’s 25-44-year-old age group—those in their prime working years—were more than 70 percent higher than for the same age group in the country’s non-Appalachian areas.
“The Appalachian Region has been taking a disproportionate hit in overdose deaths in relation to the rest of the country,” said ARC Executive Director Scott T. Hamilton. “This tool puts overdose statistics in socioeconomic context, which can be valuable to communities developing comprehensive strategies to address the epidemic.”
“While addressing opioid abuse is a national challenge, much of the solution lies at the local level,” said Dan Gaylin, CEO of NORC. “We feel a special responsibility to contribute NORC’s superb data visualization capabilities to support communities in addressing this crisis. This digital tool enables easy and accurate access to overdose mortality data for all 420 counties in the Appalachian Region.”
About the Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool
The Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool offers data overlays that show correlations between overdose mortality rates and socioeconomic and demographic factors in Appalachia such as unemployment, poverty, disability, and age, among others. A few examples include:
- In Central Appalachia, counties with the highest rates of overdose are often the same counties with the highest rates of people on disability.
- In Central Appalachia, the counties with the highest overdose rates are often the same counties with the lowest rates of educational attainment.
- In Northern and Southern Appalachia, the highest overdose rates are in urban counties.
- While Central Appalachia remains the most highly affected subregion of Appalachia, other subregions are experiencing increasing rates of overdose.
While the tool is currently focused on overdose deaths in Appalachia, it has broad implications for understanding the relationship between socioeconomic factors and overdose, as well as for other public health issues.
“The information we provide goes well beyond demonstrating the impact of opioid abuse in the Appalachian Region,” said Michael Meit, co-director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis and leader of the NORC research conducted for ARC. “We hope it will help policy makers and community leaders develop an informed response to the challenges they face by revealing underlying, systemic factors that also need to be addressed.”
About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. www.arc.gov
About NORC at the University of Chicago
NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, non-partisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge. www.norc.org