GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 10 /PRNewswire/ -- An epidemic of pain grips the state of Florida and demands attention from health care policymakers in Tallahassee, advocates for chronic pain sufferers say after holding the inaugural meeting of the Florida Pain Coalition Monday in Orlando. Organizers say they are forming the coalition to speak in a unified voice on topics affecting pain patients and the professionals who care for them. The meeting at Orlando Regional Hospital was organized by the Florida Pain Initiative (FPI) and included representatives of more than a dozen statewide associations, including: American Cancer Society, Florida Nurses Association, Florida Pharmacy Association, Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, Florida Academy of Pain Medicine, and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care. "We cannot afford to have policy makers continue to ignore this significant health care problem," says the University of Florida professor Robert P. Yezierski, Ph.D. and director of the Comprehensive Center for Pain Research. "The substantial psychological, sociological and economic impact of undertreated pain in this state demands that Florida take action now," he says. Yezierski, who serves as president of FPI, says the goals of the newly formed coalition include increasing awareness of the far-reaching economic and psychosocial impact of chronic pain, and to help encourage legislative action to help make pain a priority health care issue in the state. FPI commissioned a statewide survey that found four out of five Florida households had a member who experienced chronic pain and more than a third of the sufferers described their pain as moderate to severe. "We have a unique opportunity to send a message to the people of Florida that pain management is an important healthcare priority," says Yezierski. "By combining resources of professional associations and consumer organizations who are dedicated to finding more effective strategies of pain management as well as meeting the challenges of delivering these strategies, we have a chance to impact the quality of life of more than five million people in our state who are directly or indirectly affected by the condition of chronic pain." "The number of individuals suffering from pain is of greater magnitude than those suffering from heart disease and cancer combined," Yezierski continues. "And it's not only a growing health concern, pain is impacting the state's economy through lost productivity in the work place, disability payments and costs associated with insurance claims. The direct and indirect costs to the state of Florida are estimated to total hundreds of millions of dollars annually." Floridians are substantially more likely to suffer from chronic or recurrent pain than the national average according to the Florida Pain Survey conducted last fall. In Florida, 75 percent of respondents said they suffer pain on at least a monthly basis compared to 57 percent of Americans who responded similarly in a recently released national survey. Among other findings, those suffering with pain reported pain: * Causes them to feel anxious, irritable or depressed (65 percent) * Interferes with their ability to work and be productive (42 percent) * Prevents them from doing some of the things they once enjoyed (62 percent) * Causes them to lose sleep (61 percent) * Sometimes leaves them feeling hopeless and/or alone (25 percent) * Interferes with their sexual relations (25 percent) * Interferes with their ability to do everyday things (23 percent) * Has negatively affected their relationships with loved ones and friends (20 percent) The Florida Pain Survey also suggests considerable numbers of pain sufferers are not being effectively treated. One in five pain sufferers has not seen a physician, and among all Floridians a majority agree that people do not seek treatment because they believe the pain will go away by itself, they are embarrassed and don't want to seem like they are complaining, or they don't know where to go for help. The good news is that most pain can be relieved through proper medications and other treatments, which is an important message in FPI's efforts, according to Dr. Jennifer Strickland, past-president of FPI. On the other hand, she says, there are a number of barriers to overcome that prevent effective pain treatment, including a shortage of clinics specializing in pain management, inadequate training in pain management by healthcare professionals and concerns over the appropriate use of effective pain medications. "As the survey showed, there is also a stigma associated with pain," Strickland explains. Many people with pain are fearful or embarrassed to let their families, friends and even their physicians know they are in pain because they don't want to appear weak or believe pain is just something you need to accept." The Florida Pain Survey was underwritten by the American Pain Foundation (APF) and the American Alliance for Cancer Pain Initiatives (AACPI). APF and AACPI are national partners in the "Power Over Pain" campaign, a statewide project of the Florida Pain Initiative in collaboration with the Florida Division of the American Cancer Society.
SOURCE Florida Pain Initiative