The past few weeks have been packed with traveling, teaching and advocacy. Although I work clinically up to two-and-a-half days each week with people in pain in Penticton, a big part of what I do includes travel. This can be tiring. Yet it provides me the opportunity to learn from so many people – yoga teachers, health professionals and people in pain. The teaching part isn’t tiring. That energizes me. It is the travelling itself, and the sleeping in strange beds/rooms, that leaves me fatigued. It can also leave me in pain, but we’ll leave that for another post.
On April 24th I travelled to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, for the first Canadian Pain Summit. Over 200 delegates from across Canada gathered to begin the process of creating a national pain strategy. Patient groups, government officials, health care researchers and educators, and others who understand the huge economic costs of pain, as well as the gaps in current pain care, were there. The attendees included the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, a fact for which I am proud. The one essential person who was not there was our federal Minister of Health. That was disappointing.
Here are the reasons I believe our efforts to engage the federal government were not so successful.
This is the first time the government has heard about this problem. Until a year ago, they were not aware of the huge economic costs of pain. At the same time, there are many other groups actively involved in engaging the attention of governments and the public. Many of these groups have a long history, and are well past the point of creating awareness for their issue, and into making changes. Also, the federal government is doing its best to stay out of health care. They see health care as a job for the provincial governments, and hesitate to become involved even in a national task force that would help coordinate change across the nation.
There are likely many other issues behind what some are considering slow progress in creating a national pain strategy. Even when we gain a perspective that such activities are successful over the long-term rather than coming to a quick successful conclusion, we must stay aware that, just as pain is complex, so are the political issues surrounding pain care. And just like the path of any individual involved in pain management, success requires patience, repetition, persistence and a whole lot of compassion.