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Societal Impact of Pain Meeting, Malta 2017

Societal Impact of Pain Meeting, Malta 2017

7th June 2017


Chronic Pain Policy Coalition, Co-Chair, Neil Betteridge reflects on the Societal Impact of Pain Meeting, Malta 2017. 


This year's Societal Impact of Pain meeting was held in Malta with official endorsement from the Maltese government as part of their 2017 EU Presidency. CPPC Co-Chair Neil Betteridge represented the Coalition at the event and had the honour of moderating the half day plenary on Day One, which discussed the establishment of a common definition of chronic pain for use with policy makers. He also collaborated with GAfPA, the Global Alliance for Patient Access, on the planning and delivery of a half day symposium at the event. This looked at how to take effective advocacy actions to influence policy makers in the area of chronic pain. This is his blog report of the workshop.


Can Davids beat the Goliaths?' And how can even the smallest organisations and advocates become empowered to have loud voices and effect change with policymakers? These questions set the backdrop for GAfPA's advocacy workshop on Wednesday 7th June ahead of the Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) conference in Malta. SIP is an international platform created in 2009 to raise awareness of the impact of pain on societies, health and economic systems. It also facilitates the sharing of information and best practice across member countries in the European Union and seeks to develop European-wide policy strategies and activities for improved pain care in Europe. GAfPA was honoured to be invited to hold a workshop at SIP this year, which was supported by the Maltese Ministries for Health and Finance and held under the auspices of the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU. Chronic pain is one of GAfPA's key areas of focus and an under-recognised therapy area of great importance to physicians and patients alike. The GAfPA workshop was attended by 35 people from across Europe, from a multitude of backgrounds - all linked through their work with pain. They included pain advocacy groups, healthcare professionals, medical societies and representatives from industry.

Split into three parts, the workshop was opened by Brian Kennedy, Executive Director of GAfPA, who shared his knowledge of successful advocacy and discussed the keys to effective lobbying with policymakers.

The second part of the workshop featured short presentations from leaders of three of the official partner organisations responsible for the SIP programme in 2017: the European Pain Federation, EFIC; Active Citizenship Network (ACN) and Pain Alliance Europe (PAE). EFIC president Chris Wells, and Executive Director Sam Kynman, gave examples of some of the successes and challenges they have faced as an organisation when advocating at the national and European level. Mariano Votta, director of ACN showcased some of the key initiatives and learnings of his organisation, which encourages active participation of citizens in European policy-making. And Joop van Griensven, president of PAE, shared the thinking behind recent advocacy activities and rounded off the session by highlighting the real beneficiaries of strong advocacy activities: the patients.

During the final part of the workshop, attendees broke out into small groups to work together on an advocacy challenge. They were asked to identify an access barrier to optimal pain care in their own countries; think about a policy solution to overcoming that barrier; and to draw on what they had learned during the workshop to think about ways in which they could persuade policymakers to adopt the solution. The objective was to ensure the patient advocates left the GAfPA session armed with more tools to effectively advocate with policymakers in their own countries and highlight the issues surrounding access to appropriate and optimal pain care. GAfPA will continue its work in this area and plans to hold a workshop at the EFIC Pain Congress 2017 in Copenhagen in September.