Drug Overdoses in Pennsylvania: Measuring, Tracking, and Forecasting the Epidemic

  • Donald S. Burke
  • Jeanine M. Buchanich


Among the many challenges for public officials in controlling the opioid epidemic, one major problem is how to accurately measure, track, and forecast the epidemic’s course, and how to reliably assess the effectiveness—and cost-­effectiveness—of epidemic control measures. In this review we summarize available epidemiological data on substance use disorders and their complications that can be useful to measure and track the epidemic in Pennsylvania. We examine the data through the lens of a systems approach, with the goal of using epidemiological data to create and parameterize dynamic models of the epidemic. We suggest that by integrating a variety of datasets into systems models, it should be possible to forecast and predict the future trajectory of the epidemic and make appropriate decisions on how to mitigate the epidemic. In addition, we identify several potentially valuable data sources that are currently underused for public health decision making.