Medical examiner report helps improve overall public health, safety | KNKX

Medical examiner report helps improve overall public health, safety

Jan 4, 2019

When someone dies unexpectedly or unnaturally, a medical examiner is often called in to review what happened. A new report from King County shows how the information they gather is used to help public health.

The King County Medical Examiner's annual report shows numbers from 2017. But health officials say they used that data to guide them throughout the last year.

Officials have been looking at overdose deaths, for example. They say information from 2017 allowed them to spend that year and last year making the anti-overdose drug naloxone more widely available.

“We see if we see a trend or a shift in that trend around overdose deaths,” said Dennis Worsham, manager of the prevention division at Public Health Seattle and King County. “We then evaluate: Is it having an impact in the community? Is the data changing over time?”

Working with the medical examiner, they also were able to quickly disseminate information about threats to public health and safety.

When overdose victims showed up with the toxic chemical fentanyl in their systems, public health officials were able to put out an immediate warning that opiates laced with fentanyl were making their way through the community.

While a comprehensive view of 2018 is not yet available, Worsham says findings from throughout the year have already guided public health efforts, and will continue to do so in 2019.