Australia’s National Strategic Plan for Pain Management
With the increasing integration of technology into our daily lives and physical activity on the decline, more and more people are living sedentary lifestyles. In fact, it’s estimated that we sit for 10 hours each day. It’s no surprise then, that lifestyle related health problems, such as chronic pain and lower back pain, are on the rise.
In response to the growing epidemic of chronic pain, the Australian Government Department of Health has worked together with Painaustralia to produce a world-first chronic pain plan – the National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management (also known as The Action Plan).
The Action Plan is a dedicated initiative aimed to improve the quality of life for people living with chronic pain in Australia through a whole-of-care approach with a focus on self management and support. Through its implementation, The Action Plan hopes to reduce the burden of chronic pain on individuals living with it, as well as their surrounding communities and networks.
The Action Plan’s 8 Priority Actions
The Action Plan sets out eight key priority actions to help achieve its goals, all of which are based around themes of research, leadership, coordination, care, prevention and support. They include:
- Prioritising helping people living with pain on a national level
- Empowering consumers, their carers and the wider community with more knowledge and support related to pain management
- Education health practitioners on evidence-based pain management and care methods so that they are well-informed and skilled in the space
- Allowing people living with pain to have timely access to best practice pain management, including early intervention strategies, multimodal care and support as well as self-management guides
- Improving outcomes in pain management and evaluating the effects of pain management strategies so that pain services are always up-to-date with the latest developments in best practice and keep pace with innovation
- Increasing general knowledge of pain in both members of the general public and health practitioners through a detailed national research strategy
- Minimising chronic pain through an increased use of prevention and early intervention strategies
- Supporting people living with pain who are looking to participate in work or broader community events
The Action Plan’s Current Stages
Having been announced and launched in May 2021, The Action Plan has only just begun actioning its priority goals. The Australian Federal Government has provided The Action Plan with an early implementation fund of $2.5 million, aimed at:
- Helping health professionals train and be educated in pain management care
- Developing an education strategy for not only health professionals (who are concerned with the appropriate management and care for people living with chronic pain) but also members of the general public alike
- Supporting consumer education and increasing awareness for people affected by chronic pain and the self-management care methods available
In particular, The Action Plan has focused on developing a better scientific understanding of pharmacological and non-pharmacological pain management interventions and strategies. The Action Plan emphasises the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management (e.g. traditional western medicine versus manual therapies such as chiropractic) and aims to increase research on the topic area to improve chronic pain management in Australia.
The Action Plan is an applaudable initiative by the Australian Federal Government and Painaustralia to combat the pressing problem of chronic pain in Australia. Whether it is effective however, will require close monitoring on its fulfillment of the eight priority action areas in the upcoming years, especially in regards to non-pharmacological pain management strategies.