Government of Canada continues to take action to support people with chronic pain

News release

Canadian Pain Task Force releases their third report

May 5, 2021 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada

The Government of Canada recognizes the need to improve the health system’s capacity to better understand, prevent and manage chronic pain. Nearly 8 million Canadians – one in five people – live with chronic pain. Chronic pain affects children, adults, and seniors, and significantly impacts their physical and mental health. Chronic pain often prevents people from participating in work, school and family, and community life. It is largely invisible, with those affected often feeling disbelieved and stigmatized.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced the release of the Canadian Pain Task Force’s (CPTF) third and final report—An Action Plan for Pain in Canada. The Minister also announced $2.8 million in funding for the Centre of Effective Practice for a project that will help provide support and access to care for people living with chronic pain.

Established in 2019, the CPTF is helping Health Canada better understand and address the health needs and concerns of people living with chronic pain and those who care for them. Now more than ever, there is a need to improve the health system’s capacity to better support those living with chronic pain.

In January 2021, the CPTF’s mandate was strengthened to provide recommendations to the Government to ensure that people with pain are recognized and supported, and that pain is understood, prevented and effectively treated across Canada. The third report draws from the two years of work undertaken by the Task Force, and outlines priority actions in these areas.

The findings in the report present consensus on specific and targeted actions that will improve policy coordination, access to pain services, education and training, research, and surveillance to ultimately transform how pain is understood and treated. These recommendations were developed using an equity lens for a clear and actionable way forward to prevent chronic pain and improve the quality of life for Canadians who experience chronic pain.

Advancing the Government’s efforts to better understand, prevent and manage chronic pain, by using the CPTF’s recommendations to inform and support future action, is key to ensuring better outcomes for people with chronic pain and those that help care for them. 

Quotes

“People living with pain deserve relief from their pain, reassurance that they matter, and access to services required to improve their quality of life. We will continue to work with people with lived and living experience, as well as our partners and stakeholders, to explore new approaches and determine our next steps. I am confident that, together, we can make meaningful changes that will improve the lives of people with pain—now and for many years to come.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

“It is a critical time for action to address unmanaged pain across Canada. Chronic pain is largely invisible and for too long people with pain have faced stigma and had to navigate significant gaps in access to care. This report outlines the many actions needed for meaningful change. What is needed now is the coordination and resources to make them happen.”

Dr. Fiona Campbell
Director, Chronic Pain Program, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Past-President, Canadian Pain Society
Co-Chair, Canadian Pain Task Force

“Awareness is building around the significant impacts of systemic inequity and marginalization on our health and well-being. There is an unprecedented opportunity to consider how to achieve broad system reforms to address these challenges and the Action Plan developed by the Task Force lays out the steps needed to achieve lasting change. A range of stakeholders will have a role to play and I look forward to these groups coming together to commit to creating a better future for people with pain.”

Ms. Maria Hudspith
Executive Director, Pain BC
Co-Chair, Canadian Pain Task Force

“It is well established that many Canadians struggling with chronic pain, substance use, and/or mental illness have difficulty accessing care. Working with the Atlantic Mentorship Network - Pain & Addiction and Pain BC, our Adaptive Mentoring Networks will better support primary care providers' capacity to care for these patients in a compassionate and effective manner. Funding provided by the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) will allow us to establish networks in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and British Columbia.”

Arun Radhakrishnan, MD, CM, MSc, CCFP

Medical Director of Adaptive Mentoring Initiatives, Centre for Effective Practice

Quick facts

  • Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts or recurs for more than three months, and is often associated with significant emotional distress and/or functional disability. It is a malfunctioning of the pain signalling pathways of the nervous system. The pain may first emerge as a symptom of an injury or other health condition, but it can also occur without another underlying illness or injury. Although often invisible, chronic pain is now understood as a disease in its own right. 

  • Like many other chronic conditions, chronic pain disproportionately affects seniors, people living in poverty, people living with mental health and substance use disorders, people working in the trades and transportation industry, Veterans, Indigenous Peoples, certain ethnic and racialized communities, sexually and gender diverse persons, those who have experienced past trauma or violence, persons with disabilities, and women. 

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional challenges for many people living with chronic pain, including stress, mental illness, disability, increased use of medications and/or substances, and disruptions to accessing health care and services.

  • The Canadian Pain Task Force’s third report provides an action plan consisting of recommendations across six goals
    1. Enable coordination, collaboration, and leadership across Canada in regards to pain;
    2. Improve access to timely, equitable, and patient-centred pain care;
    3. Increase awareness, education, and specialized training in pain;
    4. Support pain research and strengthen related infrastructure;
    5. Monitor population health and health system quality; and
    6. Ensure equitable approaches for populations disproportionately impacted by pain
  • In 2019, the total direct (e.g., healthcare) and indirect (e.g., productivity loss) costs of chronic pain were estimated to range from $38.3 to $40.4 billion.

  • The project receiving funding today will build primary care capacity to support Canadians living with addictions, mental illness and chronic pain, by building mentoring networks for primary care providers in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. These networks will be built through a partnership between the Centre for Effective Practice, the Atlantic Mentorship Network-Pain & Addiction, and Pain BC.
  • Funding for the project announced today comes from Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). SUAP provides financial support to provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders for programs and initiatives that aim to prevent, treat, and reduce harm of substance use issues.

  • Since 2017, Health Canada has made specific investments in this area, by supporting training and mentorship for health care professionals, and access to treatment for pain, disability, and substance use disorders. Approximately $19 million in support has been provided through SUAP. Between 2007 and 2019, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has also invested over $175 million in pain-related research.

Associated links

Contacts

 Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Health Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

Public Enquiries:
613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709

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