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Applying Population Estimation Methods In Rural America

Posted 4/21/2021 (updated 9/2/2021)

The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. In order to implement effective population-level response strategies to this epidemic, health departments and community-based organizations must understand both the size and characteristics of the local population affected. Local data regarding the opioid epidemic are sparse and don’t fully characterize the population of those most affected, such as people who inject drugs (PWID). Without these data, it is difficult to know which epidemic response strategies are meeting the most pressing community needs and whether services are delivered at the appropriate scale. For these reasons, we developed this toolkit for population size estimation with specific emphasis on applying population estimation methods among PWID in rural communities. 

This toolkit seeks to:

  • Provide background information on the opioid epidemic in the United States.
  • Describe how to define a population of interest for population size estimation.
  • Introduce population estimation strategies.
  • Fully detail the capture-recapture strategy for population size estimation.
  • Review data collection strategies for population size estimation.
  • Discuss how to design data collection instruments for population estimation studies.
  • Present issues surrounding the implementation of population estimation studies.
  • Discuss lessons learned from implementing a population estimation study in rural Appalachia.