Recovery-Informed Health Policy
Written by Robert Ashford, MSW, PhD-C
Published on December 4, 2020
Health policy formed using scientific evidence may be referred to as EIHP, or evidence-informed health policy. EIHP is an approach to health policy decision making that combines the best available evidence with issue expertise and stakeholder values and ethics, to inform and leverage dialogue toward the best possible health policy agenda and improvements. This differs from evidence-based practice, which relies heavily on clinical expertise and internal, program-level evidence. Similarly, there is a growing body of evidence in the field of recovery research and science, containing a wealth of issue expertise and stakeholder investment which can be brought to bear on the health policy of the future.
In 2016, prompted by the nation’s opioid crisis, Facing Addiction in America, The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health was released. In Chapter Seven, the Surgeon General called for a public health approach to the substance use crisis, which he identifies as a significant change to current policies and practices. Central to this change was an emphasis on evidence-informed practices, including existing practices which had not been widely adopted, such as syringe exchange programs. These emphasized changes were to use, if implemented as suggested, the available best practices and evidentiary standards to implement new policies that could help address the crisis in the U.S.
Recovery-informed health policy can be understood as health policy that supports and promotes the social determinants of recovery, while holding successful long-term recovery to be self-evident and leveraging the insights of successful recovery experiences in order to bridge the knowledge gaps between recovery science and policy. This approach allows us to take the focus off of attempting to replicate and reverse engineer the process of recovery, and instead puts the focus on recovery as the outcome, tailoring policy to capitalize on common subjective landmarks of lived recovery experience to create the conditions in our systems and communities that we already know foster recovery and wellness. While our collective field still has much to understand about the recovery process to truly implement a wide range of recovery-informed health policies, beginning with the recommendations of the Surgeon General is a good start.