Melissa Anderson, PT
Having just survived the holidays with my family, the thought of a crowded dinner table comes to mind. Here, there are a lot of voices and a lot of conversations. Sometimes to make yourself heard, you need to speak with a stronger voice.
Advocacy issues are often the same. There are many voices and opinions at the table, but at times some get drowned out. At these times, it is necessary to speak with a strong voice- but in some cases, strength only comes with numbers. This is when it is necessary to build coalitions.
While it would be nice to think that speaking for the entire physiotherapy profession is enough during a crisis often it is not. Realistically, when compared to other professional associations (like the Canadian Nurses Association), we are a little fish in a big pond.
One coalition of which CPA is a part is the Coalition for Safe and Effective Pain Management (CSEPM). CSEPM was born of the opioid crisis, but is not focused specifically on opioids. It instead focuses on the issue of pain management, and how there is often limited access to necessary conservative pain management strategies. CSEPM looks up-stream, at people with non-cancer pain. The goal of CSEPM is to make Canadians aware of non-pharmacological pain management strategies and to try to optimize these before a prescription for pain medication is ever written.
CSEPM is made up of a number of different professional groups, patient groups, and others, including:
- the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists,
- the Canadian Chiropractic Association,
- the Canadian Psychological Association,
- the Arthritis Society,
- Canadian Patient Safety Institute,
- Patients for Patient Safety to name a few.
CSEPM’s initial report was issued in 2018 and received much more press than if any one of these groups had issued a report on their own.
Working with a coalition requires some give and take. While decisions are generally made by consensus, at times you have to be willing to let go of some ideas in order to have support for others. But there is an additional benefit to strength in numbers, that comes from working with coalitions. For an issue as complex as pain management, it brings much more credibility to the topic when you have experts who can discuss other aspects of treatment, especially the lived experience and the psycho-social aspects of pain management.
The final report of CSEPM will be released in early 2019.
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