Around 3.24 million Australians are dealing with chronic pain, which is about about 1 in every 5 people, including adolescents and even some children. For seniors over the age of 65, the ratio increases to 1 in 3. Statistics by leading advocacy group Painaustralia reveal that by 2050, chronic pain numbers will increase to 5.23 million Australians.
To address such alarming numbers, Painaustralia have introduced a new national plan to help Australians manage their pain.
The strategy includes education on both ends, health professionals as well as those with chronic pain, in hopes of preventing further issues down the line, including loss of income, opioid dependency, depression and degrading mental health.
The proposed plan entails that Medicare will have 10 individual and 10 group services available yearly to those with chronic pain. Doctors will also undergo a 6-month certificate program to learn about non-pharmacological pain management strategies. The program encourages less prescribed drugs and more emphasis on psychological counselling and exercise. Special Medicare rebates are available for the health professionals that complete the course.
On the patient side, they will have access to a new website about non-medicated pain management. Additionally, there will be a database that shows which doctors have completed the pain program.
Painaustralia CEO Carol Bennett explains there are health, economic and social costs with current pain management processes. Thus, change must occur on a national level.
The plan is currently under review. Although the federal government provided funding back in May 2018, they have yet to approve the Medicare coverage. State and territory health ministers must endorse the plan before it can be implemented.