Operationalizing and selecting outcome measures for the HEALing Communities Study

Svetla Slavova, Marc R. LaRochelle, Elisabeth D. Root, Daniel J. Feaster, Jennifer Villani, Charles E. Knott, Jeffery Talbert, Aimee Mack, Dushka Crane, Dana Bernson, Austin Booth, Sharon L. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: The Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM (HEALing) Communities Study (HCS) is a multisite, parallel-group, cluster randomized wait-list controlled trial evaluating the impact of the Communities That HEAL intervention to reduce opioid overdose deaths and associated adverse outcomes. This paper presents the approach used to define and align administrative data across the four research sites to measure key study outcomes. Methods: Priority was given to using administrative data and established data collection infrastructure to ensure reliable, timely, and sustainable measures and to harmonize study outcomes across the HCS sites. Results: The research teams established multiple data use agreements and developed technical specifications for more than 80 study measures. The primary outcome, number of opioid overdose deaths, will be measured from death certificate data. Three secondary outcome measures will support hypothesis testing for specific evidence-based practices known to decrease opioid overdose deaths: (1) number of naloxone units distributed in HCS communities; (2) number of unique HCS residents receiving Food and Drug Administration-approved buprenorphine products for treatment of opioid use disorder; and (3) number of HCS residents with new incidents of high-risk opioid prescribing. Conclusions: The HCS has already made an impact on existing data capacity in the four states. In addition to providing data needed to measure study outcomes, the HCS will provide methodology and tools to facilitate data-driven responses to the opioid epidemic, and establish a central repository for community-level longitudinal data to help researchers and public health practitioners study and understand different aspects of the Communities That HEAL framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108328
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • HEALing Communities Study
  • Helping to End Addiction Long-term
  • High-risk prescribing
  • Naloxone
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Overdose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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