The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a National Pain Strategy

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a National Pain Strategy

Today's release of the National Pain Strategy (pdf, 1.65MB) is exciting and welcome news. Pain severely impacts the quality of life for millions of people, their families and their broader community. Our current options for preventing and treating chronic pain pale in comparison to the burden of this formidable illness. While we are making progress toward better understanding of pain and the interventions that are most helpful in relieving pain, we have a long way to go. 

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released a National Pain Strategy.

Research advances have given us insight into how pain protects us from injuries. We have also learned some of the ways in which our own nervous systems can create neural networks that cause pain to persist beyond its protective role in a way that is no longer beneficial.  The biological changes that contribute to this chronic and dysfunctional state are complex - and challenging - to study and treat.

As a neurologist, I understand that these complexities contribute to the hardships faced by persons suffering with pain and their treating physicians.  As a scientist, it is clear to me that clinicians need high quality data upon which to establish best practices, more appropriate clinical tools, greater education, and more time with their patients to provide evidence-based care that is both safe and effective. As Director of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, I hear the voices of people with pain, and the message is clear that our health care system often does not meet their needs for safe and effective integrated care strategies. 

The National Pain Strategy outlines the first broad-ranging federal effort to reduce the burden of pain for the millions of Americans whose lives are affected by pain. It reflects the efforts of nearly 80 experts, all of whom are committed to improving how we safely and effectively prevent, perceive, and manage pain.The Strategy was developed in response to the 2011 IOM report; Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.? It outlines steps in six key areas including: population research; prevention and care; disparities; service delivery and payment; professional education and training; and public education and communication. Its overall goal is to move toward reducing the burden of pain for individuals and the nation. The major objectives are to:

  • Develop methods and metrics to monitor and improve the prevention and management of pain;
  • Support 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;
  • Take steps to reduce barriers to pain care and improve the quality of pain care for vulnerable, stigmatized, and underserved populations; and
  • Increase public awareness of pain, increase patient knowledge of treatment options and risks, and help to develop a better informed health care workforce with regard to pain management.

By laying the groundwork for creating a better system of pain care, the National Pain Strategy will contribute to the broad effort that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has initiated to fight the crisis of opioid misuse, abuse and overdose in the US. The goal of the Strategy is to create a setting in which more individualized, safe and effective treatment choices are available for people with pain. The current science indicates that this requires quality integrated care; care that is not solely reliant on prescription medications.

I would like to thank the IPRCC and its task force for their efforts in developing the National Pain Strategy. This is a crucial first step toward establishing a comprehensive population health-level strategy for pain that will pave the way for transforming prevention, care, education and research, and ultimately provide relief for the millions of Americans suffering with pain conditions.    

Friday, March 18, 2016