The St. Louis Regional Health Commission (RHC) has released a policy paper on chronic pain prevention and treatment, particularly among the underserved.
Four major recommendations are offered:
- Recognize chronic pain as a public health problem
- Educate patients and providers about chronic pain
- Treat chronic pain as a chronic disease, using a holistic, collaborative, and cost-effective approach
- Individualize treatment plans in a patient-centered and trauma-informed manner
These recommendations aim to improve the management of chronic pain via a collaborative patient-centered approach, particularly for the St. Louis safety net population. Although sudden acute physical pain can be a life-saving alert, “chronic pain” is defined as maladaptive prolonged pain exceeding three months. The chronic pain crisis is nationally recognized and locally magnified.
According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain, but certain groups suffer at disproportionately high rates, including but not limited to African Americans and low-income individuals. Members of Gateway to Better Health (GBH), RHC’s coverage model that provides access for 24,000 adults annually to health care services, have rates of chronic pain greater than twice the national average.
“When we discovered that so many patients have been burdened with chronic pain, we understood that their suffering and functional loss couldn’t be reversed without policy changes that directly empower patients and equip providers with the right tools,” said Heidi B. Miller, MD, medical director for GBH and the project lead for RHC’s Chronic Pain Initiative.
“We hope this report will elevate the issue among stakeholders as they come together to improve the treatment of chronic pain in our region,” said Angela Brown, acting chief executive officer for the RHC.