Guest Article: Canadian Pain Task Force update, Maria Hudspith and Fiona Campbell, Co-Chairs Canadian Pain Taskforce
Chronic Pain in Canada
Chronic pain is a serious public health problem and a disease in its own right, impacting approximately 7.63 million, or 1 in 5 Canadians. People living with pain have limited access to varied services and face stigma and undue suffering as a result. This stigma can often intersect with issues such as poverty, housing and employment instability, mental illness, race and ethnicity, and access to pharmacological pain management options, among others.
In March 2019, following Health Canada’s 2018 Opioid Symposium, the Canadian Pain Task Force was established to help the Federal Government better understand and address the needs of Canadians who live with chronic pain. The Task Force was mandated to advise Health Canada regarding evidence and best practices for the prevention and management of chronic pain, through the delivery three reports, over three years.
In June 2019, the Task Force submitted their first report to Health Canada – Chronic Pain in Canada: Laying a Foundation for Action. The report highlighted gaps in access to timely and appropriate multi-modal care, chronic pain surveillance and health system quality monitoring, education, training and awareness, and research and related infrastructure. The second report, released October 2020 – Working Together to Better Understand, Prevent, and Manage Chronic Pain: What We Heard – summaries feedback from extensive in-person and online public consultations with people across Canada who either live with and/or have an interest in chronic pain. It identifies best practices and approaches for decision-makers, professionals, and people living with chronic pain to improve access to pain care, awareness and education, research, surveillance, and care for Indigenous Peoples. It also highlights further opportunities to leverage and improve existing practices in Canada, stressing the importance of future leadership, coordination, and resources.
Painaustralia CEO Carol Bennett attended a roundtable a regional roundtable in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada in 2020 to discuss the Canadian Pain Strategy.
The second report, released October 2020 – Working Together to Better Understand, Prevent, and Manage Chronic Pain: What We Heard – summarises feedback also highlighted that for many with chronic pain, COVID-19 has increased stress and disability, exacerbated mental health conditions, incurred greater use of medications, and caused disruptions to continuity of care. Associated negative socio-economic effects (e.g. financial and emotional duress) have further limited or diminished quality of life. The disruptions in health care mean that access to services people living with pain rely on to maintain quality of life – physical therapy, rehabilitation programs, psychological services, and community supports – have been greatly reduced.
Following the release of the second report, Health Canada approved a strengthened mandate for the Task Force to provide the third and final report by Spring 2021. These recommendations will focus on priority actions to ensure people with pain are recognised and supported and that pain is understood, prevented, and effectively treated across Canada. The revised mandate will leverage the important work completed by the Task Force and respond to the sense of urgency it has created.
More information can be found on Task Force’s Government of Canada website.