by Myra Christophner, PAINS Director

DSC_0733Both the Institute of Medicine report, Relieving Pain in America, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Pain Strategy Report have called for a “cultural transformation in the way pain is perceived, judged and treated” and stated that public education and communication are essential to it.  In Kansas City, “the heartland of America”, a recent survey indicated that only 14% of the population believes that chronic pain is a disease.

DSC_0752Until and unless the perception of the American public about chronic pain and those who struggle to live with it changes, the shift from a biomedical pain care model to a bio-psychosocial approach called for in both reports will not happen.  Additional funding for research will not be allocated.  Changes in medical education and clinical practice will not occur.  Third party payers will not reimburse for comprehensive pain management; therefore, health systems will not provide these services.  And the well-documented disparities in treatment and outcomes among the sickest and most disadvantaged will continue.  At least 100 million Americans will continue to suffer.

DSC_0783In January, 2016, PAINS asked Mugur Geana, MD, PhD, Founder and Director of the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communications for Underserved Populations (CHECUP) at the University of Kansas School of Journalism, for help educating the public about chronic pain and its impact on chronic pain sufferers.  Dr. Geana responded by challenging thirty-six seniors in his Strategic Communications/Marketing class to develop a comprehensive public awareness/educational campaign to accomplish four objectives:

  • Establish chronic pain as a disease
  • Articulate the burden of living with chronic pain
  • Dispel myths associated with those who live with chronic pain
  • Empower chronic pain sufferers to advocate for better care for themselves and improved policy

DSC_0761The assignment became these students’ “capstone” projects.

Six teams at one of the top journalism schools in the country under the mentorship of Dr. Geana went to work.  The first thing the students did was to meet with PAINS’ Citizen/Leader Advisory Group, approximately fifty chronic pain sufferers who have met with PAINS staff on a monthly basis for more than three years to provide strategic advice and direction to PAINS.

DSC_0724On the evening of March 12th, the six teams “pitched” their plans to Dr. Ann Brill,  Dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism, Dr. Geana and other journalism faculty members, fellow students, parents, PAINS Citizen/Leaders and staff.  Each presentation included a description of their proposed “brand”, including project name, tag line, logo, colors, images, etc.  Thorough descriptions of plan elements, timelines, metrics, and detailed budgets were provided as was a detailed implementation plan and sample collateral materials, e.g., t-shirts, yoga mats, 3-D glasses (to view movie theater educational ads).  The evening was remarkable.

DSC_0721At the end of their presentations, PAINS’ Citizen/Leaders were instructed that they were to choose a  “winner” and a “runner-up.”  Typical of PAINS’ experience with these individuals committed to easing the experience of chronic pain for others, they broke the rules.  They chose two “winners” and a “runner-up.”  (Brief descriptions of each proposal follows these comments.) They congratulated all six teams and told them that they recognized elements in every presentation worthy of further consideration and asked the students and Dr. Geana to help them quickly synthesize six plans into one that will “transform the way pain is perceived, judged and treated.”

DSC_0768PAINS is currently seeking support to:

  • synthesize the best elements of all six proposals into one cohesive plan
  • develop a pilot program in the Kansas City region
  • evaluate the pilot plan’s impact
  • refine the pilot plan as necessary
  • develop an open access public education/engagement toolkit
  • market and disseminate the toolkit

If we are successful, this toolkit will become available to organizations and community-based efforts across the country without charge.  We hope you enjoy reading about the work of these amazingly bright young people as much as we have enjoyed working with them.

Make Pain Visible – Winner

Make Pain Visible - Plansbook (FINAL)_Page_01Based on primary and secondary data, we found that many people lack general knowledge about chronic pain because it is a disease that manifests itself in a multitude of ways and can be masked from plain view. This information we gathered created a direction for our campaign. From here, the message was simple: Make Pain Visible. The Campaign to Make Pain Visible aims to target two audiences in Kansas City: the general public and those who suffer from chronic pain. Through a number of strategies and tactics, the campaign aims to educate the general public and make them aware of the disease as well as inspire those who live with the disease to advocate for themselves. It aims to make a change; it aims to make pain visible.

UnmasKC – Winner

UnmasKC Group 2 Presentation_Page_13W6 Marketing Solutions created an interactive and engaging campaign designed to educate the general public while also creating a voice for those living with chronic pain. Our theme deals with unmasking the realities of chronic pain, and is appropriately named “UnmasKC”. W6 Marketing Solutions targets two audiences: the general public in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area and those  living with chronic pain in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Both of these target audiences play a big role in making our campaign a success, achieving the goals set forth by the CPB.

“UnmasKC” aims to unmask all aspects of chronic pain. We believe it will establish a long-lasting effect that will increase awareness and involvement in chronic pain efforts in Kansas City. Our campaign utilizes multiple social media platforms, television advertisements, billboards and community involvement opportunities.

Quatro Group – Runner Up

PLANSBOOKFINALGROUP4_Page_01This campaign will inform and strive to change the public’s perception of issues surrounding chronic pain while empowering chronic pain patients to advocate for themselves. These tactics will be bolstered through both new and traditional streams of media. The main themes of this campaign strive to give chronic pain warriors a voice by putting a face to the realities of chronic pain. Targeting Kansas City’s general public will better allow us to influence and teach as many people as possible regarding the revolving matters of chronic pain. By focusing on Pain Awareness month and organizing innovative activities we will effectively develop and phase the Kansas City general public’s attitudes and beliefs about chronic pain. We will revamp the CPB’s initiative, Relieving Pain in Kansas City, and create a cohesive digital presence and guide the CPB, its members and chronic pain patients into the technological era. To do so, we will arm chronic pain patients with a virtual space to share stories, discuss issues and become informed of the latest news involving chronic pain – something that has never been done within the organization. Our strategy will effectively develop the Kansas City general public’s attitudes and beliefs about chronic pain from ignorant to informed.