Member Spotlight: American Pain Society

David A. Williams, Ph.D.

Founded in 1977, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary organization of basic and clinical scientists, practicing clinicians, policy analysts and others who conduct pain research, treat pain and advocate for individuals with pain. The mission of APS is to advance pain-related research, education, treatment and professional practice.

In 2010, after a decade of APS advocacy efforts to address pain as a national issue, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to undertake a study and make recommendations “to increase the recognition of pain as a significant public health problem in the United States.” According to their landmark report issued in 2011, acute and chronic pain affects at least 100 million U.S. adults and its cost to the nation's economy is estimated between $560 billion to $630 billion in direct medical costs and lost productivity. The report called for a coordinated, national effort of public and private organizations to transform how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention.   

The findings in this report guided the development of the National Pain Strategy (NPS), released in March of  2016, and makes recommendations for improving pain care in America in six key areas: population research; prevention and care; disparities; service delivery and payment; professional education and training; and public education and communication. Many APS leaders and society members provided expertise and vision through their involvement in the work groups for each of these key areas. Implementation efforts are now beginning and will be coordinated through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and will likely include members of APS as subject matter experts.

Also articulated in the IOM report was that efforts to reduce the burden of pain in the United States cannot be achieved without an expanded and sustained investment in basic and clinical research on the biopsychosocial mechanisms that produce and maintain chronic pain and the development of safe and effective treatments. Currently the Federal Pain Research Strategy (FPRS) is being developed that will complement the NPS. Work groups for this effort, again involve APS scientists.

The FPRS will identify critical gaps in basic and clinical research on the symptoms and causes of pain. It will include an agenda for developing our knowledge in key areas such as physiological, clinical, behavioral, psychological, outcomes, and health services research. It will also insure that appropriate linkages are make across these domains in alignment with the NPS. The FPRS will also make recommendations to ensure that the activities of the National Institutes of Health and other Federal agencies are free of unnecessary duplication of effort.

APS is grounded in the science of pain which is reflected by our members’ involvement in the national initiatives described above. As an organization we are also dedicated to the next generation of pain scientists. Each year APS  funds at least two $25,000 research grants for early career professionals, enabling them get pilot data that will lead to more substantial funding. APS has long been a proponent of a multidisciplinary approach to pain treatment, an approach that is needed now more than ever.

David A. Williams, Ph.D., is the president of the American Pain Society, and professor at the University of Michigan Health Systems Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center. 

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