Public Health student drives change in Illinois

Noam Greene used a class assignment to help save lives.

As part of a master’s degree course in Public Health, Greene submitted a policy memo to the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA) urging that safer injection facilities be implemented throughout Illinois in order to prevent drug overdoses.

Noam Greene

“I wanted to make my policy proposal real and practical because this is a life and death issue for thousands of people,” Greene said. “I did not expect it to be carried through the IPHA process, and I was really surprised when they contacted me.”

Greene’s policy memo focused on the need for safe injection sites to be implemented in regions with high rates of intravenous drug use.

Many of the alternatives, such as psychiatric care, counseling, rehabilitation facilities, and medication-assisted therapy, have limited capacities, lengthy waiting periods, and are often cost-prohibitive. Considering these challenges, a supervised injection facility provides easily accessible, safe spaces that patients suffering from substance abuse disorders can tap into while seeking other more robust treatment options.

In turn, it urged for support of existing harm reduction, overdose prevention and community outreach efforts. He was asked to present it at the association’s executive council meeting that was held in Springfield last month.

“I was nervous to present to IPHA, but they had very clear expectations and gave me feedback the whole way,” Greene said. “When the membership meeting approved the resolution, I was in tears because I know that safer injection sites could save so many lives.”

Kunal N. Patel, assistant professor in NIU’s School of Health Studies, said he is focused on using coursework to drive real-life policy changes in Illinois.

“Although this is merely one example of how students, academicians, stakeholders, and community members can work together to drive changes in improving the human condition, I fundamentally believe there are unlimited ways for academic institutions to ensure every assignment leaves a positive impact on our world beyond just the infamous gradebook,” Patel said.

Patel said he couldn’t be more proud of Greene’s effort and results.

“I am absolutely ecstatic that Noam was meaningfully able to apply health economic decision-making tools that he learned in my course,” Patel said. “We grapple with endless healthcare problems that seem to be getting increasingly complicated in our evermore interconnected world; the opioid epidemic alongside other substance abuse disorders is just one of the many problematic areas deserving of additional efforts and resources.”

Learn more about the Public Health program at NIU.

Source: NIU Today CHHS News

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