Last month the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (AMRAB) finalised the health and medical research priorities for 2020–2022. The priorities are based on consultations from September and October and will guide future Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) investments under the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2016–2021.
Painaustralia’s submission for the priorities called for two key strategies to improve outcomes in pain research, strategies we believe will make a significant difference to the awareness, understanding and management of chronic pain in Australia:
a targeted research strategy for pain
a National Institute for Pain Research.
In many ways, pain is still an emerging research area, despite the staggering number of Australians impacted by pain and the economic costs of pain.
By comparison, in the six years between 2012–2017, cardiovascular disease received total funding of $687 million.
Without a strategic research focus on pain management, outcomes across the wide range of topics remain hard to distinguish. It will be even harder yet to map knowledge translation and the real impact of research on pain management across this funding.
These are the latest MRFF Priorities for 2020–2022 under each Strategic Platform:
Strategic and International Horizons
One Health – Antimicrobial Resistance
Global Health and Health Security
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
Ageing and Aged Care
Data and Infrastructure
Digital Health Intelligence
Health Services and Systems
Comparative Effectiveness Research
Primary Care Research
Capacity and Collaboration
Clinical Researcher Capacity
Trials and Translation
Public Health Interventions
Translational Research Infrastructure
A number of these priority areas align with chronic pain. The focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and ageing and aged care, will be particularly important as we know persistent pain is more prevalent in these groups.
Research aimed at improving health services and systems, through the improvement of treatment knowledge and informed decision making, and through a more concerted effort in primary care research that is geographically relevant, will be beneficial for many chronic and complex health issues, including pain.
Focusing on consumer-driven research is also an important priority area, to remove gaps between researcher perspectives and the lived experience of a health condition. Working collaboratively will ensure better healthcare experiences and make the most out of the research investment.
Painaustralia are also supportive of the priority on public health interventions. As they state:
“Targeted research to test innovative public health approaches to addressing modifiable risk factors that are at the heart of the rise of chronic and complex disease prevalence and persistence in Australia. Equity of access to healthcare will benefit with a focus on the increased role of remote care interventions through mobile, telehealth and digital health.”
Investment in public health interventions could make a significant difference to the prevalence and management of chronic pain in Australia. Healthcare access is a particular issue for people living with chronic pain, particularly in regional and remote areas, and Australia should invest in better health options and access for these communities.
We are hopeful that through these emerging research priorities, funding will be directed towards research that enhances our knowledge of every aspect of chronic pain.
While Australia is home to a network of fantastic pain management leaders and researchers, there is really only a small number of dedicated research programs. A clear and strategic research agenda for pain is essential to identify gaps in knowledge and practice.
We must better understand the causes and consequences of persistent pain and best practice for prevention and how to minimise its impact. There also needs to be a focus on translating and disseminating the early clinical research and findings to better inform health practices, and to ensure best outcomes for consumers.
This work is now critical to improving the experiences of people living with chronic pain.