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Researchers have developed a new national blueprint to help health professionals support the one in five Australians living with chronic pain, costing the Australian economy $139 billion every year.
Published in the journal Pain, the "Listen to me, learn from me" framework was co-developed by a national team of Curtin University-led researchers and collaborators working in partnership with Australian people living with chronic pain, caregivers, and health professionals.
Lead researcher Professor Helen Slater, from the Curtin School of School of Allied Health, said chronic pain was often debilitating for the Australians living with the condition, and with significant implications for the health system and economy.
"Living with chronic pain—or pain that lasts longer than 3 months—means lives are often put on hold. You can't see pain, but it can derail people's lives," Professor Slater said.
"People with chronic pain are not consistently supported with high-quality person-centered care in Australia, and it's a similar situation across the world.
"Typically, health professional training and education in chronic pain care is shaped through a theoretical and clinical evidence lens, reflecting what we as academics and clinical experts think are important knowledge and skills, not necessarily what is important to people living with pain."
Co-author Professor Andrew Briggs, also from the Curtin School of Allied Health, said the study flipped the training lens 180 degrees to find out what was important to those that had, or cared for someone with, chronic pain.
"We partnered with Australians living with chronic pain, and caregivers to find out what they considered was the most important thing health professionals needed to be able to do to help them manage their chronic pain," Professor Briggs said.
"Australian health professionals working in chronic pain care also contributed to shaping this framework.
"One pain care priority in particular—'Listen to me, learn from me'—captured the true essence of person-centered chronic pain care, and we knew right away that's what the framework should be called."
John Curtin Distinguished Professor Peter O'Sullivan, from the same school, said there were nine key focus areas of the new framework underpinned by 44 specific pain care priorities.
"These priorities involve a range of skills that will form new health professional training targets, such as pain validation and more effective communication," Professor O'Sullivan said.
"Quality pain care is not routinely adopted. Our aim to ensure Australian health professionals are well trained to know how to best support people living with chronic pain and making these training programs digital means that more health professionals will have access to them."