Background: Chronic pain is a public health epidemic. Nearly one 1 in 10 veterans return to civilian life plagued with chronic pain. To date, medication is the most common treatment and opioid use is on the rise. Currently, there is no national platform to activate veteran’s voices on chronic pain—engaging them to share in their own words issues, questions, and outcomes that are most important to them. Veterans Action League (VAL) 2.0 provides a neutral platform for key stakeholders to share opinions, obstacles, and research ideas for improving chronic pain management and treatment. VAL Units formed in Georgia, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia led by Veteran Unit Leaders (Unit-L’s) will drive the creation of a National Veteran-Centered Chronic Pain Research Agenda (NV-CCPA).
Proposed Solution to the Problem: Chronic pain is largely misunderstood and remains a significant public health problem. According to the VA, over 50 percent of veterans are plagued with chronic pain. This population may pose greater challenges to treat compared to the general public based on military history and injury. Pain-reducing medications—opioids—are a common treatment. This project moves away from “take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” giving veterans an active voice in chronic pain management and treatment options that matter most to them. The project team will explore with patients and key stakeholders what interventions have been successful in the past, with whom, and under what circumstances, and develop veteran-driven patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) topics and comparative effectiveness research (CER) questions. VAL closes the knowledge gap and prepares veterans for active participation in PCOR and CER.
Objectives: Engage veterans/stakeholders in talks on PCOR/CER; increase understanding of what veterans need to improve pain management/treatment; serve as a channel to disseminate study results about pain treatment options; strengthen researchers’ abilities to be better partners with veterans/stakeholders in PCOR/CER; develop NV-CCPA; and translate NV-CCPA into a publicly accessible white paper.
Activities: VAL 2.0 includes in-person and virtual get-togethers, Think Tank Meetings, Think Tank Times Newsletters, joint operations planning, networking, disseminating events, and town halls.
- Form VAL Units (VAL-U)
- Build a community that is able to better participate in PCOR/CER
- Dissemination of PCOR/CER findings for rapid uptake
- Establish an NV-CCPA
- Author a white paper based on the NV-CCPA for awardees and the PCOR community to incorporate into decision-making settings
Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: VAL-U's led by Veteran Unit-L’s and supported by Collaborative Academic Research Members (CARMs) will capitalize on engagement via monthly in-person and virtual platforms with key community stakeholders. Stakeholders will mobilize and communicate views, challenges, and research ideas for improving chronic pain management and treatment, which will act as a catalyst for the NV-CCPA. NV-CCPA will infuse a veteran-driven approach to planning and prioritizing pain research reflecting desired health outcomes, thus influencing how research is done. VAL-U will determine the NV-CCPA and content for the white paper.
Project Collaborators: Project co-lead from Rutgers University; consultants from University of Maryland and Ohio State University; CARMS from Augusta, Duke, Florida Atlantic University, and Loyola University, local Veteran VAL Unit-L’s, clinicians, researchers, public health agencies, policy makers, and research funding agencies in conjunction with the project lead’s health research initiative for veterans, Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-P.A.W.W.): www.nursing.fau.edu/c-paww.
Project Resource: Think Tank Times January 2020