Chiles Symposium brings the opioid epidemic to the forefront of public health emergencies

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The 2019 Annual Chiles Lecture and Symposium at the USF College of Public Health took place on April 12. The mission and aim of the event focused on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and opioid use among mothers and the impact it has on their newborn babies.

The COPH’s Chiles Center aims to promote optimal health using a multi-pronged approach: research, applying evidence-based practices, delivering education and guiding change through service and partnership.

To promote the issues of maternal opioid use and NAS, the Chiles Center brought in a national expert on maternal care as well as a panel of six USF faculty members who have been conducting research or promoting quality initiatives on this issue. The symposium also featured a student poster session and awards ceremony.  

“The Chiles Symposium provides Chiles Center faculty, students and staff the opportunity to showcase and discuss the breadth and depth of their research and research to practice for women, children and families,” said Dr. William Sappenfield, professor of community and family health and director of the Chiles Center. “This is actually the first year we decided to have a common topic and part of that is just the large crisis that we have on maternal opioid use and NAS. There is a lot happening at USF and the state on this topic and we want to take full advantage of that.”

Students presented their research on maternal and child health at the 2019 Annual Chiles Lecture and Symposium (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

The symposium began with the presentation of the Charles S. Mahan, M.D. Award for Best Student MCH Paper.

Presented to doctoral student Ngozichukwuka Agu, this award recognizes the best paper authored by a College of Public Health student on maternal and child health by providing a $500 award.

Her paper, “Predictors of Early Childhood Undernutrition in Nigeria: The Role of Maternal Autonomy,” will be published in Public Health Nutrition later this year.

Agu and her co-authors examined maternal, child and household factors that were associated with growth stunting, underweight wasting in children less than two years old within Nigeria. They focused on the role a mother’s decision-making ability and relative power within the home plays in this association.

Unexpectedly, they found that women with low relative power in the household were less likely to have children with indices of undernutrition. Agu said this finding calls for future exploratory research, policies and interventions to target at-risk subgroups.

The co-authors on her paper are Nnadozie Emechebe, Korede Adegoke, Oluyemisi Falope and Dr. Russell Kirby.

“Winning this award is a great honor for me and my co-authors. I am appreciative that the committee chose this paper and hopeful that our research findings can contribute meaningfully to improving child health,” Agu said.

Ngozichukwuka Agu and Dr. Russell Kirby (Photo by Sara De La Cantera)

Other topics presented this year during the panel discussion included:

Accuracy of ICD-10-CM Codes for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Surveillance

Dr. J.P. Tanner, assistant professor

USF College of Public Health

Hospital Variation in Length of Stay Among Infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in Florida

C.N. Reid and T. Foti, PhD students

USF College of Public Health

“Challenges Facing Pregnant & Post-Partum Women in Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs”

H. Hills, associate professor and chair

USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

“Maternal Interaction in Dyads Impacted by Opiate Use Disorder”

D. Maguire, associate professor and vice dean of graduate nursing

USF College of Nursing

“Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in Florida: The FPQC’s Approach”

M. Balakrishnan, associate professor

USF Morsani College of Medicine

COPH assistant professor Jean Paul Tanner presenting during the panel discussion (Photo by Sara De La Cantera)

Following presentations and awards, all attending guests and speakers were invited to view research posters, network with potential colleagues, and meet the authors.

Students presenting their research during the poster session in the COPH lobby (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

Dr. Elizabeth Krans, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, closed the event with a keynote discussion.

She discussed the rise of opioid use disorder (OUD) in women during pregnancy, the affects and treatment of OUD, “Maternal Opioid Use: Latest Research and Practice.”

“Looking at other public health epidemics, such as HIV, firearm homicide and car crashes, drug overdose deaths are well outpacing and exceeding these crises,” Krans said. “And I would argue that this epidemic has had a severe and disproportionate impact on women.”

She discussed how pregnancy is an opportunity to address this chronic medication condition of addiction that will exist well beyond the pregnancy episode and that can be managed and treated successfully.

“Pregnancy increases healthcare access. Over 75% of pregnant women with OUD are enrolled in Medicaid and over 40% initiate OUD treatment for the very first time in pregnancy.

She closed her talk with a discussion on clinical treatment pathways and response during pregnancy as well as postpartum.

“A baby cannot exist alone, but is essentially part of a relationship. That’s what we’re in the business of, building a relationship, building a connection and providing a future for women with addiction and their children,” Krans said.

Related media:

Album by Ellen Kent, Sara De La Cantera and Caitlin Keough

The Symposium: USF Opioid Research Panel video

Maternal Opioid Use and NAS: Latest Research and Practice video