Penney Cowan has lived with chronic pain for most of her life and is the Founder of the American Chronic Pain Association. Her advocacy work is peppered with the creation of innovative projects and programs. Perhaps, one of the most powerful of her ideas was establishing September as Pain Awareness Month in 2001. This September will mark the fifteenth anniversary of Pain Awareness Month. That it has endured over time is remarkable given all the other causes that vie for public attention. However, in my opinion, it has never reached its potential.
RAISING PAIN AWARENESS
It was my privilege to be one of those involved in establishing a Kansas City Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®; yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Kansas City Race. Each year, thousands of breast cancer survivors, their friends, family and others walk and run to raise public awareness and resources to support multiple organizations in our community that advocate for those diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday nearly ten thousand people participated in the Race in Kansas City, and there are now Komen Races in more than 140 communities across the country. Chronic pain is worthy of at least as much public attention as is breast cancer, and I think I could make an argument that it is worthy of even more attention.
It is estimated that one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed withbreast cancer in their lifetime. One in three Americans live with chronic pain. So, let’s learn from Race for the Cure and other successful public education campaigns and help Penney Cowan make her vision a reality. It may not happen this year, but we all need to do everything we can to leverage the groundwork that has been laid by ACPA and other pain advocacy organizations and make as much noise as possible in September about chronic pain as a disease, the need to fully implement the National Pain Strategy Report, and sharing stories of those who live with chronic pain and have persevered in spite of it.
PAIN AWARENESS MONTH IN KANSAS CITY
PAINS-KC is a group of about fifty “Citizen/Leaders” who have met with leaders of PAINS on a monthly basis for more than three years. This year, they have taken the lead in developing a plan for September as Pain Awareness Month in Kansas City. We want to share just a couple of things they are doing in hopes that you will consider doing something similar in September or whenever you can.
PAINS Update has mentioned Dr. David Nagel’s new book, Needless Suffering: How Society Fails Those with Chronic Pain. We are delighted that Dr. Nagel will be in Kansas City on September 15 to speak about his experience in caring for those who live with chronic pain and why he wrote Needless Suffering. With support from two local health systems, a local church, and a few individuals, all those who attend this event will receive a free copy of Dr. Nagel’s book. They will also have the opportunity to view the art installation pictured here which is the work of Jacquelyn Sullivan-Gould, Director of Galleries and Professor of Fine Art at Michigan State University. Mrs. Sullivan-Gould was injured in a car accident her freshman year of college and has lived with chronic pain since then. The life-sized bronze sculpture shown here is a self-image.
A breakfast will be held the following day for physicians who care for those with chronic pain to meet Dr. Nagel and to discuss the National Pain Strategy Report and the recently published CDC Guideline for Opioid Prescribing at the Kauffman Foundation. In addition, PAINS is hosting a luncheon with leaders of local foundations to learn more about local and national efforts to establish that chronic pain is a disease and to improve chronic pain care, including a shift from a biomedical, opioid-based approach to acomprehensive chronic pain care model.
We are also delighted that the Kansas City Library System has agreed to participate in September as Pain Awareness Month. Various branches will have displays that provide educational materials and also a short recommended “reading list,” including:
- The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom
- A Nationin Pain by Judy Foreman
- ThePainful Truth by Lynn Webster
- LifeDisrupted by Laurie Edwards
- InsideChronic Pain by Lous Heshusius
We are also in conversation with our local Sickle Cell Advocacy Group to talk about how they can get involved and what PAINS can do to support their efforts.
POWER OF ONE
On my way in to work this morning, I thought about what I can do personally. (I’m a big believer in “the power of one.”) I decided that throughout September, I will make noise. Periodically, I plan to send emails to my personal contact list with what I call chronic pain “factoids,” e.g.,:·
- Chronic pain is a disease.
- Acute pain that goes untreated over a period of time changes the nervous system and can become chronic pain.
- At least 1:3 Americans live with chronic pain.
- 17% of children between 4-18 experience frequent or severe headaches including migraine.
- It is estimated that approximately 30 million Americans live with “high impact chronic pain.”
- Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability in America.
- Chronic pain costs the U.S. between $565-630 billion annually.
- Chronic pain care does NOT equal opioid therapy.
- Comprehensive pain care improves outcomes, allows people to reclaim their lives, and saves money.
Written by Myra Christopher