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Federal government releases National Pain Strategy

The federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services today released a National Pain Strategy (link to .pdf) that makes a series of recommendations for improving the quality of care for people in pain.

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, and most are treated, or sometimes not treated, through visits to primary care physicians - the majority of whom lack expertise in pain management. Pain imposes significant burdens not only on patients in pain, but on families and employers, incurring heavy economic burdens on all.

The National Pain Strategy is intended to transform both the treatment of pain and the training of those who care for those in pain, according to Stanford Medicine’s Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, who co-chaired the committee that produced the National Pain Strategy report.

“We know that people living with chronic pain often go without adequate care. This is a way to move forward and to help transform pain care,” Mackey, chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, told me this morning.

As outlined in a release, other major goals of the National Pain Strategy are to document how many people are living with chronic pain and how much pain they suffer; to increase public awareness of how pervasive chronic pain is; reduce the stigma associated with chronic pain; to educate the public about both the benefits and risks of opioid pain medications; and to also educate health care providers.

One reason so many people are in pain, said Mackey, is that we are so much better at keeping people alive after major injuries sustained in war or motor vehicle accidents. More procedures and surgeries and cancer can all leave people suffering with chronic pain.

The new pain strategy takes a precision health approach, emphasizing prevention and population-level thinking and precision of information about both pain and pain management.

Previously: “People are looking for better answers”: A conversation about chronic painStudy: Effects of chronic pain on relationships can lead to emotional distress and National survey reveals extent of Americans living with pain

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