Ohio University students working on state’s opioid crisis

Students accept the Global Health Case Awards in Baker Ballroom.

The 2017 Global Health Case Competition may have focused on marginalization and addiction in Hungary, but many of the issues and proposed solutions are also relevant to Ohio’s opioid crisis. This is evidenced by the fact that the top two teams are hoping to implement their solutions across the state of Ohio.

According to Meredith Gartin, visiting assistant professor for CHSP’s Global Health Initiative, “The case competition was in response to the opioid addiction issues here in Ohio and to relate and compare the addiction issues in Hungary.”

Although Hungary does not have a widespread opioid problem compared to the U.S., there is a growing heroin problem in Budapest and alcohol is a major addiction concern across Hungary. The competition focused on identifying long-term strategies to prevent Hungary’s addiction problems from becoming an epidemic.

The winning team proposed a solution that focuses on afterschool programming to prevent adolescent drug abuse and the second place team proposed an automated needle exchange program.

Ohio University and the College of Health Sciences and Professions will send the first-place team to Budapest to work with partners established through Health Leaders Association Partnership, a non-profit based in Hungary led by Kia Goolesorkhi.

First–place team members include two CHSP graduate students, Clinical Doctorate of Audiology student Gabriella Mayer and Combined Master of Science and Dietetic Internship student Dahlia Gordon.  The team also includes two undergraduate students, pre-medicine student Emma Harvey (who is also pursuing a CHSP diabetes certificate) and Bachelor of Business Administration student Brooke Mauro. Mauro also serves as a student trustee on the Ohio University Board of Trustees.

In March, Goolesorkhi and István Kiss, chair of the Department of Public Health Medicine at the University of Pecs, met with the winning team to discuss opportunities for planned research activities. Mayer said, “The afterschool program isn’t really about drug prevention and education programming but it’s about establishing activities for at-risk youth that can serve as alternative options to using drugs.”

When asked about the team’s visit with Hungarian partners, Mayer said, “It was eye-opening to hear what they said about Hungarian culture and what they perceive about addiction.”

Mauro added, “They [Hungarian guests] were also surprised by how we, in the U.S., perceive the problem of addiction.”

During the summer, the students will begin to discuss this comparison while co-creating an afterschool curriculum in Budapest.

“It was cool that they [Hungarian guests] said it means a lot for us to come to Hungary because it brings attention to the issue of addiction. This experience, the case competition and working with partners, really allows us to have a meaningful impact on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Gordan.