Penney Cowan has lived with chronic pain for most of her
life and is the Founder of the American
Chronic Pain Association
. Her advocacy work is peppered with the creation
of innovative projects and programs. Perhaps, one of the most powerful of her
ideas was establishing September as Pain Awareness Month in 2001.
This September will mark the fifteenth anniversary
of Pain Awareness Month. That it has endured over time is remarkable given all
the other causes that vie for public attention. However, in my opinion, it has
never reached its potential.
It was my privilege to be one of those involved in
establishing a Kansas City Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®
yesterday marked the 20th
anniversary of the Kansas City Race. Each
year, thousands of breast cancer survivors, their friends, family and others
walk and run to raise public awareness and resources to support multiple
organizations in our community that advocate for those diagnosed with breast
cancer. Yesterday nearly ten thousand people participated in the Race in Kansas
City, and there are now Komen Races in more than 140 communities across the
country. Chronic pain is worthy of at least as much public attention as is
breast cancer, and I think I could make an argument that it is worthy of even
It is estimated that one in eight women in the U.S. will be
diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
One in three Americans live with chronic pain. So, let’s learn from Race
for the Cure and other successful public education campaigns and help Penney Cowan
make her vision a reality. It may not happen this year, but we all need to do
everything we can to leverage the groundwork that has been laid by ACPA and
other pain advocacy organizations and make as much noise as possible in
September about chronic pain as a disease, the need to fully implement the
National Pain Strategy Report, and sharing stories of those who live with
chronic pain and have persevered in spite of it.
Pain Awareness Month
in Kansas City
PAINS-KC is a group of about fifty “Citizen/Leaders” who
have met with leaders of PAINS on a monthly basis for more than three years. This
year, they have taken the lead in developing a plan for September as Pain Awareness
Month in Kansas City. We want to share just a couple of things they are doing
in hopes that you will consider doing something similar in September or
whenever you can.
PAINS Update has mentioned Dr. David Nagel’s new book, Needless Suffering: How Society Fails Those with
. We are delighted that Dr. Nagel will be in Kansas City on
September 15 to speak about his experience in caring for those who live with
chronic pain and why he wrote Needless
. With support from two local health systems, a local church, and
a few individuals, all those who attend this event will receive a free copy of
Dr. Nagel’s book. They will also have the opportunity to view the art
installation pictured here which is the work of Jacquelyn Sullivan-Gould,
Director of Galleries and Professor of Fine Art at Michigan State University. Mrs.
Sullivan-Gould was injured in a car accident her freshman year of college and
has lived with chronic pain since then.
The life-sized bronze sculpture shown here is a self-image.
A breakfast will be held the following day for physicians
who care for those with chronic pain to meet Dr. Nagel and to discuss the
National Pain Strategy Report and the recently published CDC Guideline for
Opioid Prescribing at the Kauffman Foundation. In addition, PAINS is hosting a
luncheon with leaders of local foundations to learn more about local and
national efforts to establish that chronic pain is a disease and to improve
chronic pain care, including a shift from a biomedical, opioid-based approach
to a comprehensive chronic pain care model.
We are also delighted that the Kansas City Library System
has agreed to participate in September as Pain Awareness Month. Various
branches will have displays that provide educational materials and also a short
recommended “reading list,” including:
We are also in conversation with our local Sickle Cell Advocacy Group
to talk about how they can get involved and what PAINS can do to support their
On my way in to work this morning, I thought about what I can do
personally. (I’m a big believer in “the power of one.”) I decided that throughout September, I will make
noise. Periodically, I plan to send emails to my personal contact list with
what I call chronic pain “factoids,” e.g.,:·
- Chronic pain is a disease.
- Acute pain that goes untreated over a period of
time changes the nervous system and can become chronic pain.
- At least 1:3
Americans live with chronic pain.
- 17% of children between 4-18 experience frequent
or severe headaches including migraine.
- It is estimated that approximately 30 million
Americans live with “high impact chronic pain.”
- Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability in
- Chronic pain costs the U.S. between $565-630
- Chronic pain care does NOT equal opioid therapy.
- Comprehensive pain care improves outcomes,
allows people to reclaim their lives, and saves money.
I don’t do Facebook
and I don’t know how to Tweet
, but I bet you do. If
so, join me in stirring it up, and let’s get started on planning for Pain
Awareness Month in September 2017.
Labels: American Chronic Pain Association, chronic pain, National Pain Strategy Report, Pain Awareness Month