Addressing the Challenge of Pain Education in Low- Resource Countries: Essential Pain Management in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a low-resource country in the South-West Pacific with considerable health care challenges, including a high burden of the painful disease. The Essential Pain Management (EPM) educational program was developed to address the challenge of inadequate pain education in PNG and the first workshop was held in 2010. The aims of EPM are to improve pain knowledge, teach a simple system for managing pain, and address local pain management barriers.
It is usually delivered as an interactive, multidisciplinary 1-day workshop with an emphasis on developing local solutions to local problems. The program includes an instructor workshop to encourage early handover to local health care workers. Between 2010 and 2018, a total of 42 one-day workshops and 6 instructor workshops were held throughout PNG, and 783 health care workers were trained, as well as 60 instructors. Over two-thirds of the 1-day workshops were taught entirely by local instructors. A shorter version of the workshop, called EPM Lite, was used to train 109 medical and nursing students. Program evaluation has included participant feedback (reaction) and preworkshop and post-workshop tests (knowledge) since inception. Evaluation of behavioural and organizational change has proved more challenging; however, a survey of past participants suggests some important behavioural changes and points to areas for formal research.
The uptake of the EPM program in PNG is encouraging and suggests that there is a need for a pain management education program that is simple and easily adopted by local health care workers. There are still significant challenges, including a lack of funding, limited uptake at the undergraduate level, the need for more formal evaluation of clinical impact, and the requirement for an all-of-system approach to improve pain management in PNG. Worldwide, EPM has now been taught in more than 60 countries. Our priorities for coming years include support for embedding EPM into health care systems and teaching programs, increased mentorship for instructors, assistance with overcoming local pain management barriers, and development of specific projects that will assess the impact of EPM education on patient outcomes.