September 23, 2016

People With Chronic Pain Have Voices, Please Listen

By Guest Blogger Michaela O’Connor, director, U.S. Pain Foundation

For 100 million Americans, September provides the opportunity to raise awareness for the chronic pain they live with every day.

For the U.S. Pain Foundation—the local, state and national acknowledgement of September’s Pain Awareness Month provides the much needed platform to raise the issues plaguing the chronic pain community.

Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. While they struggle with everything from insurance coverage to medication access, it begs the question, “Don’t people with pain matter?”

Greater Pain Understanding Is Needed

As an organization created by people with pain for people with pain, the U.S. Pain Foundation believes that the 33 percent  of Americans living in chronic pain not only matter, but they deserve proper care, respect, and understanding from both the healthcare community and the nation as a whole.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocates less than 1 percent of its $32.3 billion budget to research chronic pain, despite the fact that chronic pain costs America $560 billion to $635 billion a year. This translates to only $3.23 per person spent on research each year, while the costs amount to $5,600-$6,300 per pain patient in treatment.

We believe that pain patients deserve more than $3.23 invested in understanding and improving their health each year. U.S. Pain believes that finding safe, effective treatments for chronic pain will take more than the 1 percent of the NIH budget allotted. The staggering number of pain patients deems the increase necessary. Pain patients deserve a chance at proper, effective treatment, no matter their diagnoses.

Improving Pain Alternatives Is Key

U.S. Pain also is fighting to improve healthcare insurance so that it covers the most effective treatments currently available.

Patients deserve access to available alternative therapies and to have those therapies covered by insurance, especially during a time when medications are being cut back or restricted altogether. Individuals’ options can and should include opioids, medical marijuana, name brand and generic medications.

While September is a great time for the chronic pain community to unite, educate, and embrace lives, it also is a time for the nation to acknowledge pain as the serious medical condition it is.

That acknowledgement provides us with the platform necessary to advocate for patients’ rights year-round. It gives the U.S. Pain Foundation the power to educate, empower and inform the entire pain community, while creating change at every level of government.

With one-third of a nation in chronic pain, it is time to recognize and acknowledge that people with pain matter.

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