Australia’s newly launched National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management – also known as The Action Plan – is a world-first in providing citizens with practical support for chronic pain. Launched in May 2021, The Action Plan aims to help 3.4 million Australians living with chronic pain access affordable and specialised pain treatment.
In a joint effort by Pain Australia and the Australian Department of Health, The Action Plan is endorsed by all State and Territory governments and aims to improve pain awareness, support and treatment for Australians living with chronic pain. Supported by Health Minister Greg Hunt, The Action Plan is the ‘culmination of the commitment and dedication of key stakeholders and consumers’ (source).
The Action Plan’s overall goal is to improve the quality of life for people living with pain, and minimise the burden of pain for affected individuals and communities. The Action Plan is further divided into eight key goals, each with their respective objectives as well.
- Sufferers of chronic pain are recognised as a national and public health priority. Pain Australia hopes that with the support of The Action Plan, pain policies will be at the forefront of national health concerns, and building frameworks concerning the treatment plans for chronic conditions will be prioritised.
- Individuals are supported to understand and manage pain. The Action Plan aims to increase public awareness of pain and related conditions, and help consumers gain the confidence and knowledge to seek out chronic pain best practises and management strategies (including non-pharmaceutical treatments such as manual therapy).
- Health practitioners grow more informed on evidence-based care and best practices for pain management. Guidelines need to be established across the country to ensure pain is adequately managed over all health care systems.
- Sufferers of chronic pain can access best practice pain management in a timely manner. This will require improvements in existing delivery systems and funding models at the primary care level. There also needs to be a focus on supporting patients with patient-centred interdisciplinary assessment and pain care services.
- Improvements are made in outcomes for pain management. This includes adding independent evaluations to all pain services and using a combination of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical pain management interventions to evaluate the quality of medicines used in treating chronic pain.
- Increasing knowledge of pain flourishes and improving communication between health practitioners and consumers. Pain Australia hopes to achieve this goal by increasing pain research at a national level through building a network of pain research specialists.
- Prevention and early intervention strategies help to minimise the development of chronic pain. This involves improving the application of acute and subacute diagnostic and treatment strategies for pain across all health settings.
- People living with pain are able to actively work and participate in their community. Greater support will be provided for people living with pain to return to work after suffering an injury or diagnosis of a pain condition.
One of the more notable initiatives in the Action Plan is to improve pain management strategies using multidisciplinary approaches and a combination of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments.
As more research on non-pharmaceutical pain management strategies emerge – particularly those involving complementary and alternative medicine – The Action Plan may see success in Goals 2 and 5 in the near future.
Health practitioners such as chiropractors may play a large role in fulfilling the goals of The Action Plan as well.
As one of the world’s first action plans dedicated to chronic pain management, The National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management is sure to become a baseline for future initiatives on similar health concerns both in Australia and around the world.