Big Data and the Opioid Overdose Epidemic: Algorithmic Ethics and Public Health Practice
Funded by: NYU Langone Health, Division of Medical Ethics
Project dates: September 2020 - August 2021
Principal Investigator: Allen, Bennett

As algorithmic approaches to medicine and public health have expanded in recent years, varied applications raise complex and distinct ethical concerns. Drug policy and public health responses to the opioid overdose epidemic are one such application. Unlike other health problems to which algorithms have been applied successfully, public health responses to the opioid overdose epidemic necessarily must engage with law enforcement actors due to the unique legal status of drugs and drug use in the United States. Cross-sector engagement raises a host of ethical considerations. To develop an ethical framework for the uses of big data by public health to inform responses to the opioid overdose epidemic, this project utilized a case study methodology. The project was situated in existing theories of algorithmic ethics for health care and criminal justice and aims to extend prior work to fit the specific contours of drug policy.