For the past five years, PAINS has published a report focused on our work and that of others to promote a “cultural transformation in the way pain is perceived, judged and treated.” Below is the 2017 report, The CNN Effect: The mediatization of pain policy. In concert with our No Longer Silent initiative, a project focused on changing the public narrative about chronic pain and those who live with it, we are pleased to share with you this report highlighting how both traditional and social media impact pain policy and the lives of those living with chronic pain, as well as their capacity to have positive and negative consequences.
The term “the CNN effect” was coined after the Gulf War to characterize the impact of 24-hour/7-days per week cable news on military strategy and public perception. Today this concept is taught in journalism schools across the country. It is our view that the so-called CNN effect is no longer limited to military decisions; we believe that it has leeched into public health policy in a significant way.
Those of us advocating on behalf of people living with chronic pain believe that significant education about chronic pain as a disease, the struggles of those who live with it, and the relationship between the opioid addiction epidemic and efforts to improve chronic pain care is needed. Work completed this year leads us to conclude that a national social marketing campaign is needed; this campaign can change public perception and thereby improve pain policy. However, as we move in this direction and encourage others who do so, we advise caution.
Our country currently struggles with distinctions between “facts” and “alternative facts,” “truth” and “opinion,” “reporting” and “editorializing.” As a society, we are now, perhaps more than ever before, concerned about the veracity of news and its impact on public policy and our daily lives. It is our hope that we have not succumbed to the hyperbole and weak-evidence base that has clouded issues about chronic pain and opioid addiction for too long.
It is also our hope that this report will cause those who read it to do so critically and to provide us with feedback.