The “Moral Imperative” of Treating People with Chronic Pain –Challenges, Impediments, & Opportunities


March 29, 2013


Dennis Turk


University of Washington School of Medicine


Chronic pain is a prevalent problem with significant costs to individuals and society. According to estimates in the recent report of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 100 million American adults have some form of chronic pain. Chronic pain is a common occurrence among children and adolescents, as well, affecting up to 25% of all children. This makes chronic pain more common than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. Because of the direct health care costs and indirect costs (e.g., disability payments, lost productivity) associated with chronic pain, it is also exceedingly expensive for society with the total cost of chronic pain to the US economy estimated to range between 560 and 630 billion annually. The astronomical figures cited mask the incalculable impact of pain on individuals experiencing pain and their significant others. Unfortunately, the currently available medical, pharmacological, and surgical treatments for patients with chronic pain are inadequate and only moderately effective, at best. Thus, there is an urgent need to address the negative effects of chronic pain, including its marked costs and significant social impact, what the IOM asserts is a “moral imperative”. Given the magnitude of the problem, the modest benefits from traditional medical, pharmacological, and surgical treatments, there is a growing realization of the importance of involving patients in self-management of their symptoms and their lives. During this presentation I will provide an overview of the current status of pain and pain management, outline barriers to disability prevention and rehabilitation, and describe opportunities that can greatly benefit from integration of currently available and developing technological applications to overcome some of the existing impediments.


Dennis Turk

DR TURK is the John and Emma Bonica Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Research and Director of the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement, & Effectiveness (C-PRIME)at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He was previously Associate Professor of Psychology at Yale University and Professor of Psychiatry and Anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where he also served as the Director of the Pain Evaluation and Treatment Institute. A charter member of the International Association for the Study of Pain and a founding member of the American Pain Society, Dr Turk is a fellow of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, Society of Behavioral Medicine, and American Psychological Association. Dr Turk has been active for many years in national and international organizations and is Past President of the American Pain Society and was a member of the Council of the International Association for the Study of Pain for 6 years. He is a Special Government Employee (Advisor) to the United States Food and Drug Administration (Center for
Drug Evaluation and Research and Center for Devices and Radiological Health). Dr Turk has received a number of awards including Recipient of the Award for Outstanding Scientific Contributions to Health Psychology from the American Psychological Association, the John C. Liebeskind Award for Career Contribution to Pain Research from the American Academy of Pain Management and the Wilbert E. Fordyce Clinical Investigator Award from the American Pain Society which recognizes “individual excellence and achievements in clinical pain scholarship and is given to a pain professional whose total career research achievements have contributed significantly to clinical practice.” He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, Society of Behavioral Medicine, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine Research. Dr Turk is currently Editor-in-Chief of The Clinical Journal of Pain and Co-chair of the Initiative on Methods.