Col Rodney Peterson, Dr Graeme Killer AO, Carol Bennett, A/Prof Malcolm Hogg
Painaustralia’s Cost of Pain in Australia Report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics and launched by The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health on 4 April in Canberra, highlighted the staggering cost in terms of the economic, health and social impact of chronic pain in Australia.
The headline figures from the report were a stark reminder of a condition that has been largely ignored and under-resourced, leading to escalating harms, lack of community and health professional awareness about best practice approaches to managing chronic pain and poor access to best practice multi-disciplinary pain services. The disparities in rural and regional communities of Australia are even more pronounced.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the significant public discussion of the report beyond the figures was the opportunity to highlight the stories and realities of people who live with chronic pain every day. Our consumer spokespeople represented different ages and stages of life, metropolitan and regional areas as well as a diversity of different conditions with a core message that pain does not discriminate.
The Federal Budget 2019-20 provided some relief in the pain management area including:
$4.3m for better access to pain management services through the Rural Health Outreach Fund; and
$7.2m for a PBS subsidised take home naloxone program (included in the Federal Budget 2019/20)
The Minister’s further announcement at the Cost of Pain report launch of $2.5m over four years to fund consumer and health education awareness and education including $1m for Painaustralia, $1m for health professional education and $0.5m for an education strategy for pain management and opioid use was welcomed by Painaustralia as a positive initial response to the challenges.
The new National Advisory Council on Pain Management to be co-chaired by Sister Mary-Lynne Cochrane (Chair of Painaustralia’s Consumer Advisory Council) and myself will also provide the strategic direction and leadership required to achieve much needed and sustained co-ordination, investment and change in this area.
It was good to attend and present at some important stakeholder conferences headlining pain including the National Rural Health Alliance (with a keynote presentation by Prof Lorimer Mosely), the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy forum and the Australian Pain Society’s Annual Scientific meeting. All of these events signal an increasing understanding that pain is, and must be, a national health priority.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Fiona Hodson on the successful completion of her term as President of the Australian Pain Society and warmly welcome Dr Anne Burke as the new President. I look forward to working with Anne in her new role.
Painaustralia’s new Consumer Advisory Group met for the first time in March, aptly Chaired by Sister Mary-Lynne Cochrane. The group have already provided input to some of our policy work including the important MBS Pain Management Review Taskforce report and our language guidelines.
We look forward to hearing and reflecting the views of our Consumer Advisory Group and our broader consumer network in everything we do.