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National strategy needed to tackle chronic pain

Daily self-management of chronic pain is the key to reducing disability and facilitating return-to-work, but more needs to be done in terms of national policy, health experts say.

Research on the topic was published by the Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association’s Deeble Institute for Policy Research last week.

Presenting the data, senior research director Dr Linc Thurecht said chronic pain now affects at least one in five Australian adults and children, and one in three people over the age of 65.

“The most recent data from 2007, shows chronic pain costs the Australian economy more than $34 billion annually, with productivity costs of $11 billion and direct health care costs of $7 billion; 10 years later these figures are likely to have increased,” he said.

“To date, our national response to more effectively prevent and manage our pain burden has been fragmented.

“By making pain a national priority for policy change we can start to take steps to reducing the impact of pain towards a reinvigorated and longer term national pain strategy."

Painaustralia chief executive officer Carol Bennet said the latest Health Policy Evidence brief put forward six actions the federal government should focus on as part of a national strategy to reduce the burden of chronic pain on families and the economy.

The proposed actions are:

  1. Empower consumers to understand pain treatment and self-management, as better educated consumers will create less demand for pain services
  2. Act to prevent chronic pain and intervene early, this would reduce opioid misuse and its associated cost to the economy
  3. Increase access to pain services in regional areas, for example telehealth services and outreach clinics in remote Australia
  4. Build capacity in the health workforce to prevent, manage, treat and support those with chronic pain
  5. Facilitate return-to-work through policy reform to reduce pain-related disability
  6. Support a better understanding of pain through targeted research into the impact it has on productivity, economy and communities.

To read the Evidence Brief, see: https://ahha.asn.au/publication/evidence-briefs/evidence-brief-17-power-through-knowledge-patient-education-and-self.

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