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Healthwatch With Dr. Leana Wen: Opioid Crisis; Corner Food Stores; Doulas

It’s another edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our monthly conversation with Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.    

According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose  -- more than 50,000 people every year. The majority of these deaths, now surging in more than 30 states, are being caused by powerful illicit opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl, and widely-used prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, the active opioids in Percocet and Vicodin, respectively.

In March, the Trump White House established the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, a 5-member panel chaired by New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Last week, the commission issued its Interim Report. It calls on the White House to declare the surging drug abuse problem “a national emergency,” noting that more Americans are now dying from fatal drug overdoses than from car crashes and gun violence.

The report's recommendations are getting mixed but generally favorable reactions from health officials and drug policy experts across the country, including Baltimore’s Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. Today, she and Tom discuss what the federal plan might mean for Baltimore’s campaign to curb its own opioid crisis  They also look at the city’s efforts to help low-income seniors find and prepare nutritious food, and how a new pilot program to train "doulas" could help keep Baltimore’s infant mortality rate on its downward trend.  And as always, Dr. Wen takes your questions and comments on the public health issues that matter to you.

This article was edited to correctly identify the active opioids in Percocet (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone), two leading prescription pain killers.

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Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Rob is a contributing producer for Midday.