Thirty years ago during the height of the United States’ HIV/AIDS epidemic, the U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, sent informational brochures on the disease to every American household. The campaign was effective in helping shift the debate from the moral politics of intravenous drug use to the importance of prevention, such as condom use, and medical care. “No one will require more support and more love than your friend with AIDS,” Koop wrote.
On Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Koop’s brochures have been updated for 21st-century technology—and for 21st-century health crises. “We don’t send out information by snail mail anymore,” Adams said during a conversation with Kathleen Koch, an author and journalist, and Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, at The Atlantic Festival. Instead, the surgeon general’s office created a digital postcard aimed at preventing opioid misuse and overdose deaths, and posted it on the office’s website for people to download and distribute.
The digital postcard is the most recent step in Adams’s project to expand access to naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug, to as many Americans as possible. In April, Adams released the first surgeon general’s advisory—a formal announcement that draws attention to major public-health issues—in over a decade, with a focus on opioid overdoses and naloxone. Since the advisory was published, Adams said Thursday, retail dispensing for naloxone has increased 70 percent. In addition, he said, “the call for naloxone prescribing is up 350 percent.”