By Ed Coghlan
The long awaited National Pain Strategy has been released.
“This is our country’s first coordinated effort to develop a plan to address the care of those in pain. It is a seminal event because it calls for a complete transformation in pain prevention, care and education,” Sean Mackey M.D., who directs the Stanford University Pain Program, told the National Pain Report.
The NPS was developed by a diverse team of experts from around the nation and leaders believes it is a roadmap toward achieving a system of care in which all people receive appropriate, high quality and evidence-based care for pain.
“It’s a really good thing that represents a huge effort,” said Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy for the US Pain Foundation, which is the largest pain advocacy group in the U.S.
Both Dr. Mackey and Ms. Steinberg were on the team that drafted the NPS and shared their thoughts with the National Pain Report.
In 2011, in recognition of the public health problem of pain in America, the Institute of Medicine called for a coordinated, national effort of public and private organizations to transform how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention.
The Strategy, which was released on Friday, calls for:
- Developing methods and metrics to monitor and improve the prevention and management of pain.
- Supporting the development of a system of patient-centered integrated pain management practices based on a biopsychosocial model of care that enables providers and patients to access the full spectrum of pain treatment options.
- Taking steps to reduce barriers to pain care and improve the quality of pain care for vulnerable, stigmatized and underserved populations.
- Increasing public awareness of pain, increasing patient knowledge of treatment options and risks, and helping to develop a better informed health care workforce with regard to pain management.
For the more than 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, the NPS represents a game plan that won’t result in overnight results, but is aimed to elevate the issue of chronic pain. What concerns Dr. Mackey and others who worked hard to develop the strategy is how it will be implemented.
“Achieving the goals outlined in the NPS will require leadership from HHS,” Dr. Mackey said. “We ask HHS to lead in tasking the relevant stakeholders with implementation of the strategic goals, establishing accountability for progress, and identification and allocation of resources to advance the Strategy. While we look to HHS for leadership, we all need to stand ready to partner and help in any way we can.”
The US Pain Foundation’s Steinberg couldn’t agree more.
“We simply have to come up with better treatments, improved access, and expanding education for both providers and patients,” she said. “Our work is cut out for us, but the implementation of this strategy is critical for the chronic pain sufferer.”
The often fractious pain community needs to come together over this plan.
“The pain community should channel its energy to implementing this,” said Steinberg. ”When you look at what AIDS advocates did to educate all us about the disease resulted in more research and more public understanding. We need to do the same for pain.”
While the earlier drafts of the NPS did not spend a lot of time talking about opioids, the final version addresses the use of opioids, understandable given the attention that federal agencies have been giving the use of opioids. It probably wasn’t coincidental that the CDC announced its voluntary guidelines earlier this week, in advance of the NPS release.
As the NIH press release said:
“Better pain care, achieved through implementation of the National Pain Strategy, is an essential element in the Secretary’s initiative to address the opioid epidemic. Access to care that appropriately assesses benefits and risks to people suffering from pain remains a priority that needs to be balanced with efforts to curb inappropriate opioid prescribing and use practices. The Strategy provides opportunities for reducing the need for and over-reliance on prescription opioid medications, including:
- Improving provider education on pain management practices and team-based care in which multiple treatment options are offered – moving away from an opioid-centric treatment paradigm.
- Improving patient self-management strategies, as well as patient access to quality, multidisciplinary care that does not depend solely on prescription medications, especially for vulnerable populations.
- Encouraging the evaluation of risks and benefits of current pain treatment regimens.
- Providing patients with educational tools to encourage safer use of prescription opioids.
- Conducting research to identify how best to provide the appropriate pain treatments to individual patients based on their unique medical conditions and preferences.”
What happens now?
The US Pain Foundation’s Steinberg said it’s time to get active.
“Join a group, call your Congressman’s office and make noise,” she said.
The U.S. Pain Foundation has a program that is designed to identify advocates. If you’d like to become part of that, click here.
To read the NPS, click here.