What We’re Reading: AI Helping the Opioid Crisis; Pregnancy Resource Center Promotion; Air Pollution vs Smoking, Alcohol


Artificial intelligence (AI) tool NarxCare influences and limits painkiller prescriptions to help fight the US opioid epidemic; legislators in states with strict abortion bans are directing residents to pregnancy resource centers; air pollution is reportedly more dangerous to the average person’s health than smoking or alcohol.

AI May Influence Who Receives Pain Medication

The artificial intelligence (AI) tool NarxCare is being used by medical providers to review controlled substance prescriptions, according to KFF Health News. Created by health care technology company Bamboo Health, Narx Scores and an algorithm-generated overdose risk rating are produced, and these influence and limit painkiller prescriptions, “similar to a credit score influencing the terms of a loan,” to help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic. The tool uses state data on controlled substance prescriptions to identify patterns of potential problems among patients and physicians. Law enforcement officials, state and federal health agencies, and health care providers have implemented these tools, but researchers warn that it can have unforeseen consequences if doctors or patients are improperly flagged.

Legislators in Abortion Ban States Lead Millions to Pregnancy Centers

Legislators in states with strict abortion bans are directing residents to pregnancy resource centers, according to Stateline. The centers, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, are nonprofits that typically offer free pregnancy tests, baby supplies, and parenting classes. Some also offer limited ultrasounds or testing for sexually transmitted infections, although they are not usually staffed by doctors or nurses. Legislators position the resource centers as solutions to poor birth outcomes and the lack of adequate prenatal and postpartum care, but critics say taxpayer dollars should be used to support better medical and social services.

Air Pollution Named Biggest External Threat to Human Health

A benchmark study from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago reports that air pollution is more dangerous to the average person’s health than smoking or alcohol, according to CBS News. The annual Air Quality Life Index report shows that fine particulate air pollution remains the “greatest external threat to public health” as it is linked to lung disease, stroke, heart disease, and cancer. The average person’s life expectancy would increase by 2.3 years if the world were to permanently reduce these pollutants to meet the World Health Organization’s guideline limit, equaling up to 17.8 billion life-years saved. In comparison, tobacco use reduces global life expectancy by 2.2 years, and child and maternal malnutrition reduce life expectancy by 1.6 years. Asia and Africa are most affected by air pollution, yet they have some of the weakest infrastructure to deliver citizens timely, accurate data.

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