Representatives from the Maltese European Parliamentarians’ office, Maltese Parliament, Ministry of Health, Service providers, professionals, patients and citizens’ organisations have agreed to work together to address the common theme of pain. This decision was taken during a stakeholders meeting held on July 8 2016 in preparation for the 2017 Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) Symposium (8-9 June 2017) which is an event on the Calendar of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of Europe.
European statistics indicate that approximately 20 percent of Europe’s adult population, more than 80 million people, suffer from chronic pain, meaning pain which occurs repeatedly over a period of three months or longer. Some 9 percent of Europeans experience pain every day. Chronic pain accounts for 500 million sick days a year and is the most frequent cause of early retirement and incapacity for work. The total direct and indirect costs of chronic pain amount to an estimated 1.5 to 3 percent of total European GDP. The burden on Maltese society in real terms still needs to be studied, but based on the results it is desired that this collaboration will lead to the development of policies and practices for the benefit of the Maltese society, possibly leading to increased momentum on the continent.
The diverse audience at the meeting was presented with the work carried out over the past seven years of SIP, but focused mostly on the recommendations agreed upon during the 2016 SIP Symposium that took place in Brussels on the 23-24 May. Participants discussed the socioeconomic implications of pain and policy solutions to this burden both for the individual and society.
The recommendations look at various issues: ranging from the fact that pain is considered an important element when a patient requests healthcare in another member state under the Cross Border Directive, to the need of Chronic Pain being recognised as a chronic disease, and also pain in cancer patients. The recommendations look at the relationship and implications of pain and/on employment, and the need for more research and education on the topic for professionals, patients and general public. The final recommendation was the need for the establishment of an EU-wide platform built by organisations from different countries. These recommendations may be accessed on SIP Recommendations 2016. Following this September meeting, the SIP Malta platform was created, and began to work together in an open coalition encompassing a wide range of organisations to address the societal impact of pain. The objectives of SIP Malta are to raise awareness of the relevance of the impact that pain has on our societies, health and economic systems; develop and foster national and European-wide policy strategies and activities for improved pain care, and encourage coordination between the various stakeholders.
The scientific framework of the “Societal Impact of Pain” (SIP) platform is under the responsibility of the European Pain Federation EFIC®. Cooperation partners for SIP 2017 are Pain Alliance Europe (PAE) and Active Citizenship Network (ACN).
The SIP 2017 symposium is co-hosted by the Malta Health Network and the No Pain Foundation. The pharmaceutical company Grünenthal GmbH is responsible for funding and non-financial support (e.g. logistical support). In the past the scientific aims of the SIP symposia have been endorsed by over 300 international and national pain advocacy groups, scientific organisations and authorities.