Canadian Pain Task Force Update: March 2020

March 20, 2020

In spring of 2019, Health Canada established the Canadian Pain Task Force (CPTF) to recommend an improved approach to pain care, education, research and data monitoring in Canada. Here’s a round-up of the latest work by the CPTF to drive national action on chronic pain since we first reported on its progress in December 2019.

National public consultation

As part of its mandate, the CPTF has launched an online public consultation to learn more about the issues, needs, and priorities that matter most to Canadians in order to improve how pain is understood and managed in our country. The consultation is open to anyone with an interest in pain, including people living with pain, caregivers, health care providers, researchers, policy makers and the general public. The input received from this public consultation will help inform the Task Force’s second report to Health Canada in June 2020, which will outline elements of an improved approach to pain in Canada. The consultation can be accessed here.

Regional stakeholder workshops key learnings

Since October 2019, the CPTF has held a number of regional workshops in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador with more than 350 pain stakeholders participating from across the country. Key learnings from these regional workshops include that: 

  • There is no one-size-fits-all treatment – we need a variety of tools to effectively manage pain
  • Multidisciplinary teams and collaboration are critical for improving outcomes for people living with pain
  • Models to support the continuity of care and improved access to non-pharmacological community-based psychological, physical and self-management interventions are needed, particularly in rural and remote locations
  • Pain care that integrates traditional Indigenous knowledge, medicines and access to ceremonies, supports a holistic model of health
  • Virtual networks/tools and mentorship can improve capacity and access to care
  • Cross-disciplinary training initiatives enable better care
  • Integration of cultural competencies in training and education programs increase cultural awareness, quality of care and improve health outcomes
  • Integrating research capacity into clinics can allow for better knowledge creation
  • Electronic records and common coding practices and outcome measures can enable better surveillance of chronic pain
  • There is an urgent need for formal pain strategies and funding
  • Long-term, community-based research and knowledge mobilization funding is needed
  • Self-determination in setting health research and program priorities supports success
  • Pathways are needed for sharing best practices around pain management
  • Care pathways must involve strengthened primary care and community-based services
  • Health care providers and people with pain need better awareness of pain and how to best diagnose, assess and manage it
  • Public education initiatives can reduce stigma around pain and help people understand the science behind pain
  • Investments are needed in prevention and early intervention, particularly in underserved, rural and remote communities

Additional consultations 

In January 2020, members of the CPTF facilitated a virtual workshop with the Canadian Pain Care Forum to hear from a diverse range of stakeholders from across the country, including many people with lived experience of pain. 

Several members of the CPTF and Expert Advisory Panel also participated in a knowledge exchange event in January 2020 aimed at developing a provincial pain strategy for Nova Scotia. Hosted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and in collaboration with Research Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Health Authority, IWK Health Centre, the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, and Solutions for Kids in Pain, many common themes were shared around the need for more coordinated action on chronic pain in Nova Scotia and opportunities for the federal government to maximize efficiencies in pain management across the country.

Task Force members also provided a presentation on “Living well: Easing pain through research” at the Canadian Arthritis Research Conference in February 2020. Topics of discussion included a state-of-the-art summary of current pain research, a glimpse into the lived experiences of people in pain, and an exploration of the challenges and impediments to developing improved approaches to pain treatment.

The Canadian Pain Task Force is adapting the way it consults with stakeholders in light of the current COVID-19 situation, but its important work continues. Stay tuned for additional updates as the Task Force's work progresses through 2020 and beyond.

Health Canada is also taking active measures to support people in pain during this unprecedented time and has issued temporary exemptions to maintain access for anyone currently taking opioid medications. The exemption enables Canadian pharmacists to extend or refill opioid medications without a renewed prescription, transfer opioid prescriptions to other pharmacists as needed and deliver opioid medications to people in pain who are self-isolating at home. Read the full exemption notice here. Please note that your pharmacist may not yet be aware of these changes and you may need to share this information with them.