The year 2020 will be synonymous with historic events and the use of the terms ‘unprecedented’, ‘pivot’ and ‘new normal’. There is no doubt it has been a tough year – including for people living with pain. We know that they have experienced a double whammy of challenges through the pandemic and opioid reforms.
However, as we reflect on the past 12 months, it is valuable to look for the achievements among the hardships.
For the team here at Painaustralia, progression of the National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management was an important milestone, with the Plan now sitting with state and territory ministers for final endorsement and investment. If all Australian governments commit to the Plan, we will be one of the first countries in the world to adopt a national approach to pain and pain management.
Among the difficulties of the Australian bushfires in summer, followed by the pandemic and all of its particular challenges, people living with chronic pain were also impacted by opioid regulation changes in June. These led to an increase in stigma around not just use of opioid medications but also chronic pain itself. We have heard many devastating stories since June, as people living with pain faced barriers to pain management during already anxious times.
Just like there is no one-size-fits-all solution for chronic pain, there is no single policy reform that will remedy the financial and health burden of chronic pain in Australia. We will continue to advocate for better pain management options, so that alternative options to opioid medications are more accessible, affordable and evidence-informed.
To help with this, we launched our Parliamentary Friends of Pain Management Group, co-chaired by Senator Wendy Askew and David Smith MP, Member for Bean. This non-partisan group will raise awareness among politicians for better management of pain conditions and explore opportunities to work with Painaustralia to help those living with chronic pain. The Group has already launched the updated National Pain Services Directory, which now lists over 200 public and private facilities, and met to hear from pain experts and researchers about medicinal cannabis as a pain management option.
The Parliamentary Friends Group was formally launched at an event hosted by the Governor General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Mrs Hurley, held at Government House and online. It was at this event that we also announced our latest Pain Champion – award-winning author, Tara Moss. Tara will be another invaluable advocate and help us to build a better understanding of pain within the community to address issues of discrimination, misunderstanding and stigmatisation.
In a year of uncertainty, reliable information has never been more important. Painaustralia provided support through a dedicated COVID-19 microsite, to ensure pain consumers had access to relevant information to help them through the pandemic. We have also progressed with our community education and awareness project, which will improve consumer knowledge of chronic pain and pain management by increasing the availability of evidence-based information via a single web-based platform.
While there were some very productive and positive moments throughout 2020, we also recognise the difficulties and hardships. The year was fraught with uncertainty, anxieties and added complexities for people living with chronic pain. I hope we all take a moment, as we bring this year to an end, to take a breath and find time for some self-care.
Here at Painaustralia we are looking forward to a productive 2021 as we work together to enhance pain management in Australia and improve the quality of life of people living with pain.
We look forward to your ongoing support as we work towards these goals.