NIH Director Francis Collins: "More people are dying now from opioid overdoses than died of HIV/AIDS at the peak of that epidemic in the late 1980s when the whole world, or certainly our world, was focused on that…. We’ve got an all-hands-on-deck moment if there ever was one."
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"More people are dying now from opioid overdoses than died of HIV/AIDS at the peak of that epidemic in the late 1980s when the whole world, or certainly our world, was focused on that…. We’ve got an all-hands-on-deck moment if there ever was one."

Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, The Future of Health: A New World of Collaboration, Milken Institute Future of Health Summit.

Milken Institute Monthly: Opioids, Obesity, and the Future of Health
Future of Health Summit
America’s Health Crisis

Stunning advances in medical science promise longer, healthier lives. Yet, in this seemingly transformational moment, Americans are succumbing to self-destructive behavior in record numbers. Obesity and deaths from opioid overdose are at an all-time high. Even sleep deprivation has become a serious health issue. The Milken Institute addressed aspects of the health crisis in four new studies and explored it in depth at the Future of Health Summit last week. Read the research and listen to the insights from leaders at the forefront of this issue, including NIH Director Francis Collins, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo Inc. Indra Nooyi for a deeper understanding of these serious threats to America’s well-being.

A Tragedy with No Simple Answers

The lives lost to opioid abuse are more than a statistical observation for Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. The dynamic changed for Goldman in September, when one of her students died from an overdose of prescribed pills. The death of the bright, athletic young woman indicates the complexity of the crisis. “Some of this we understand very well and we know what we can do,” Goldman told her audience. “Some of it we don’t understand very well at all.” We can outlaw illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine. But, as noted by Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drugs, opioids require a nuanced response because they have legitimate medical uses.

Milken Institute Joins Campaign to Prevent Opioid Abuse

The Milken Institute’s Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Public Health is joining with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education to teach school children and teens about opioid abuse. The goal is to expand the reach of Operation Prevention to all 50 states. Operation Prevention provides K-12 students with access to English- and Spanish-language resources designed to help prevent opioid abuse. The initiative builds on the Institute's efforts to extend life, and promote health and wellness at all ages, says Center for Public Health Executive Director Ed Greissing.

Searching for the ‘True North’ of Nutrition

When PepsiCo bought the Tropicana brand in 1998, its 100 percent juice drinks were considered a healthy choice. Now, health experts challenge that assessment. Rapid advances in research and a plethora of sometimes conflicting studies create a dilemma for food companies trying to respond to demands for healthier fare, says PepsiCo Chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi. Companies such as PepsiCo want to be part of the solution, but they need a “true-north definition for what constitutes a healthy food.”

Sleep Less, Eat More

Fudging on sleep isn’t much different than eating fudge when it comes to weight gain. Research shows that sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in hunger hormones, increased weight gain and higher probability of obesity, says Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Turning off our devices would help a lot. Hu told a Future of Health audience that the problem is especially acute among children who are on their phones in their bedrooms when they should be sleeping.  

New from Milken Institute
Bridging Health-Care Policy’s Partisan Divide

Partisanship has become an obstacle to cheaper and better health care for Americans. In The Hill, Milken Institute economist Ken Sagynbekov argues that the policy debate is mired in a partisan-based, cost-vs-compassion stalemate that ignores less-expensive solutions. “This approach stifles reasonable discussion and has allowed the U.S. to fall far behind its economic peers. We need a new perspective,” he writes.

A Larger Role for Banks in Sustainable Development

There is more than enough money in the global banking system to finance the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals, a far-reaching plan to improve lives in emerging and developing nations. In the American Banker, Aron Betru and Christopher Lee of the Institute’s Center for Financial Markets propose changes in Basel III guidelines and loan guarantee structures that would give banks a bigger role in funding development projects.

Deep Dives

Although the U.S. spends more per capita on health care than peer nations, it has a mediocre ranking in most categories. In four white papers, the Institute’s health economics team explores the effectiveness of community health programs, gender-based health disparities, and the need to emphasize lower-cost preventive treatments. Some key findings:

  • Increased use of community health care workers to facilitate prevention and early detection, along with other efficiencies, could reduce the nation’s health-care bill by $1.2 trillion a year.
  • Community health workers played a key role in preventing 165,000 premature deaths in 2015 by encouraging prevention and early detection.
  • Gender-based health disparities are highest in Southern states and lowest in the Northeast.
  • Only 15 states have initiatives focused on healthy diets.

From the Data Vault

In 2007, the seven most-common chronic diseases—cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental disorders—cost the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion annually in treatment costs and lost productivity. Paying more attention to prevention and early treatment would raise real GDP by $5.7 trillion by 2050, an 18 percent increase over the baseline projection. Source: An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease, Milken Institute, 2007

Upcoming Events
California Summit, Los Angeles, Nov. 8

Persistent challenges involving human capital, infrastructure, water, and taxes continue to threaten California’s economic growth. The California Summit attempts to create a roadmap to meet them. The summit assembles leaders in business, government, academia, and philanthropy to discuss ways to ensure California’s economy remains vibrant and the state remains a nexus of business and innovation.

Partnering for Cures, San Francisco, Nov. 14

Emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and smart devices, hold the promise of unprecedented advances in health care. They also present challenges, such as patient access to personal health data and the lack of effective collaboration among researchers and tech entrepreneurs. Partnering for Cures will explore these issues and more by gathering some 250 experts, innovators, and business leaders.

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