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SUMMARY FOR MEDIA
The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
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On-Demand Video: The Chronic Pain Epidemic: What's to Be Done?
See short clips below.

Event held November 10, 2016
For immediate release

In the latest in a series of live webcasts by The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a panel of experts discussed the causes, treatments, and impacts of chronic pain that afflicts more than 100 million Americans, as well as the role of opioids in pain management. They described recent neurological research and a recent National Pain Strategy from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that recommends educating doctors and patients on options for non-opioid alternative treatments while increasing research funding.

Below are highlights of the conversation for media use.

This Forum was presented jointly with The Huffington Post. 

EXPERT PARTICIPANTS

Anne Louise Oaklander, Associate Professor of Neurology; Director, Nerve Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Vaughan Rees, Lecturer on Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation; Member, Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, NIH; and Policy Council Chair, Massachusetts Pain Initiative

Linda Porter, Director of the Office of Pain Policy, National Institutes of Health, and Co-chair of the National Pain Strategy

MODERATOR
David Freeman, Managing Editor, Impact & Innovation, The Huffington Post
 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DISCUSSION

More than 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. It is the number one reason people visit doctors and the number one cause of disability, yet it is widely misunderstood. A new National Chronic Pain Strategy calls for new research and language and a multi-disciplinary approach of outreach to clinicians with alternative treatments beyond medication. The plan is still unfunded.

Chronic pain issues are often mistakenly conflated with opioid use, which is a separate issue involving patients’ misunderstanding and the industry’s promotion of inappropriate product use as well as diversion from manufacturers and sellers. Regulators' over-reaction now may block pain victims' access to treatment.

A patient-centered approach to prevention calls for healthier lifestyles, exercise, access to treatments other than opioids (medical marijuana may be helpful), and outreach to providers, insurers, and the public to reduce stigma and misinformation.

To watch the full one-hour Forum, visit ForumHSPH.org.

Contact: Christina Roache, croache@hsph.harvard.edu  tel. 617-432-7094
Click the links below to watch clips from the event.
Chronic pain ruins people's lives: Highlight from The Chronic Pain Epidemic
Chronic pain ruins people's lives  
Steinberg: "Pain devastates the very fabric of people's lives...[opioids are] a lifeline that allows them to function and have some quality of life."
A National Pain Strategy seeks solutions: Highlight from The Chronic Pain Epidemic
A National Pain Strategy seeks solutions   
Porter: "We're dealing not only with a lack of ability to treat patients appropriately... access to those programs and payment for those programs is something that we're really missing from the big picture."
Steinberg: "So it's a great plan. It was put together by 80 experts... Right now the NIH has a $30 billion a year budget. But less than 2% of it goes to basic biomedical pain research. And we really need to change that."
Opioid abuse is a related but separate problem: Highlight from The Chronic Pain Epidemic
Opioid abuse is a related but separate problem  
Rees: "Unfortunately, what we've seen is that the use of opioid analgesics is not necessarily confined to the population of patients that have chronic pain problems...critical from a public health point of view."
Rees: "Clearly what we need to do...alternatives for providing opioid medications in a safer way."
Steinberg: "Advocacy groups are hearing from many people now who are not only not able to get the opioid medication that they need, but doctors are not wanting to treat people with chronic pain."
Alternative approaches can work well: Highlight from The Chronic Pain Epidemic
Alternative approaches can work well  
Oaklander: "We've relied too much on popping the pill...There are other things that we can do, even in our own homes, that can have a direct impact."
Rees: "Well, I don't want to suggest that marijuana is under-used...exercise therapy has been particularly helpful for many individuals."
Freeman: "What sorts of interventions might there be if there's an injury."
Porter: "Therapy would certainly be one of them." Rees: "I would wonder also whether those with a history of trauma might also be at risk of problems of opioid-related substance use."
Expert recommendations: Highlight from The Chronic Pain Epidemic
Expert recommendations
Each expert offered policy recommendations at the end of the show.
Through in-person events paired with state-of-the-art interactive webcasting, The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health convenes the best-informed and most influential scientists, policymakers, and practitioners to address worldwide health problems that require immediate decisions and practical solutions.

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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people's lives-not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at the Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America's oldest professional training program in public health.
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