Push for health policies to treat chronic pain as a priority

By Shannon Jenkins

June 19, 2019

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

A new plan from Painaustralia (PA) urges public policy decision-makers to regard pain as a priority.

The national pain advocacy body calls for pain to be included in key national health and economic strategies, policies, plans and frameworks being brought forward by governments or health and medical groups.

PA said chronic conditions frameworks in particular should include pain.

Chronic pain affects more than 3.24 million Australians, according to the government-funded National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management.

More than 68% of those people are of working age.

Painaustralia CEO, Carol Bennett, said the plan presents a “clear pathway” to navigating the challenge of chronic pain.

“Australia now has the opportunity to lead the world with the implementation of the first, fully funded government response to comprehensively addressing the burden of pain,” she said.

Pain has never been a key consideration in national health policy strategies and frameworks, PA said, despite at least 20% of Australians living with chronic pain.

It also has significant social and economic impacts and costs.

Strategic and ongoing national action is needed to reduce and “recognise the complexity and ubiquity of pain in our community”.

The Action Plan outlines key goals for 2021, such as:

  • People living with pain should be recognised as a national and public health priority.
  • Consumers, their carers and the community should be empowered, educated and supported so they can understand and manage pain.
  • Health practitioners should be skilled, supported and well-informed on best practice evidence-based care.
  • People living with pain should have timely access to consumer-centred best practice pain management, including self-management, early intervention strategies and interdisciplinary care and support.
  • Pain management outcomes should be improved and evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure services keep up with innovation.
  • Knowledge of pain should be communicated to health practitioners and consumers through a national research strategy.
  • Chronic pain should be minimised through prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • People living with pain should be supported to participate in work and the community.

Action items directed at governments and policymakers suggest:

  • A National Pain Leadership Group (NPLG) should be established to advise the Minister for Health and COAG Health Ministers on the delivery and ongoing evaluation of the Action Plan. It will identify partnerships, frameworks and resources to deliver the plan and the goals of the 2010 National Pain Strategy — a key overarching document. The group will also inform future responses to challenges in the pain sector, and will be directly informed by a Consumer Reference Group.
  • COAG Health Ministers should endorse the Action Plan to lead and govern the delivery of the 2010 National Pain Strategy goals.
  • PA should be supported as the national peak pain advocacy body to advocate to decision-makers. They will raise awareness, improve quality of life for people living with pain, their carers and families and minimise the social and economic burden of pain on individuals and the community, as well as convene the NPLG to deliver constructive, unified advice.




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