Canadian Pain Task Force - Second Report

The Canadian Pain Task Force was created in March 2019 to help the Government of Canada be able to learn more about Canadians living with chronic pain and how to respond to their needs. The Task Force is intended to help government decision-makers develop approaches to prevent and manage the chronic pain of citizens. The Task Force is comprised of members that were personally impacted by chronic pain, Indigenous Peoples, researchers, educators, and health professionals with experience in chronic pain across various professions. They are working with an External Advisory Panel to obtain knowledge and expertise on the subject matter at hand.  

They have a three-year plan to address the following: 

  • Assess how chronic pain is currently addressed in Canada; 

  • Conduct national consultations and review available evidence to identify best and leading practices, potential areas for improvement, and elements of an improved approach to the prevention and management of chronic pain in Canada;  

  • Collaborate with key stakeholders, including the chronic pain community, federal, provincial, and territorial governments, health professionals, researchers, and Indigenous populations, to disseminate information related to best practices for the prevention and management of chronic pain, including for populations disproportionally affected by chronic pain (e.g., women, older Canadians, Indigenous populations, children, veterans). 

The Task Force is set to deliver three reports to Health Canada for each of their mandates. The first was published in June 2019 and was titled Chronic Pain in Canada: Laying a Foundation for Action. The second report was just published in October 2020, after extensive research through meetings with citizens who either live with and/or care about chronic pain, to better understand and gather suggestions to help prevent and manage chronic pain. 

The ideas that were suggested from the consultations can be explained through five interconnected themes: 

  1. Access to timely and patient-centred pain care – Access to practices is hindered due to shortage of health care professionals, long wait lists, and financial barriers.  

  2. Awareness, education, and specialized training for pain – People living with chronic pain, clinicians and communities need to understand and acknowledge that chronic pain is a disease, and reduce the stigma by raising public awareness.   

  3. Pain research and related infrastructure – The understanding of chronic pain needs to be strengthened and the research needs to be expanded to include building more pain research programs, supporting basic discovery and innovation, and conducting more patient-oriented research to address pain for different populations.   

  4. Monitoring population health and health system quality – Limitations to overseeing pain management can be rectified by using standards for data collection, expanding surveys and better coordination actions across jurisdictions.  

  5. Indigenous Peoples – Use approaches that recognize traditional Indigenous knowledge, medicine, and healing to reduce the negative experiences that Indigenous Peoples face when using a health system with bias and racism.  

In addition to these five themes, societal inequity and the COVID-19 pandemic was also addressed in the report. Chronic pain is influenced by many factors and it was observed that populations facing social inequities and discrimination faced more obstacles to obtaining care. Furthermore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens with pre-existing pain conditions have experienced far more stress, mental illness, disability, increased use of medications and substances, and disruptions to continuity of care. Access to services to manage pain have been reduced and many elective surgeries have been cancelled. This can be greatly improved by mobilizing virtual care, implementing centralized and interdisciplinary assessment and intake, stepped care platforms, and enhanced self-management tools and resources.  

Click here to read the full second report by the Canadian Pain Task Force. 

We would like to congratulate fellow hospital pharmacist Dr. Jaris Swidrovich for being invited to be a member of this task force and for his contributions to this excellent work.