PICH2GO helps tackle children’s pain through art and discussion
By Katie Sullivan and Tenney Loweth, Interns, Communications & Public Affairs
It can be difficult for a child to describe their pain, let alone live with it. They need support and advocates to help them along the way. For International Pain Awareness Week, the SickKids Pain Centre organized a series of educational and networking events, which brought together clinicians, researchers, trainees, patient families and policymakers to help engage, empower and educate about the very real child health problem of pain in kids.
Childhood pain is more prevalent than some people may realize. “25 per cent of children and teens in Canada experience chronic pain; five per cent of whom suffer from a severe pain-related disability,” says Dr. Fiona Campbell, Co-Director of the SickKids Pain Centre and Staff Anaesthesiologist at SickKids. “It’s a devastating and expensive public health issue.”
A novel initiative organized by the Pain in Child Health (PICH) research training initiative within the Pain Centre and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health research was PICH2GO. The initiative included a Coping Circus on Nov. 9, which connected SickKids patients and families with local “Pain Champions” who shared what clinicians and researchers are doing to help prevent and manage kids’ pain. A researcher networking dinner was held later that evening. On Nov 10, the bi-annual Conquering the Hurt: Pain Connections: Body, Mind and Spirit was hosted by the Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine. The conference featured keynote speakers Dr. Margot Latimer, Principal Investigator of the Aboriginal Children’s Hurt and Healing initiative (ACHH) and John R. Sylliboy, ACHH Community Research Project Coordinator.
It all culminated with a mobile art exhibit with an important focus: Aboriginal children living with pain. Research shows that Aboriginal children have higher rates of painful conditions, more injuries and more painful ear, dental and musculo-skelatal issues, yet their pain is less likely to be treated than non-Aboriginal children’s pain.
To help address this issue, ACHH (pronounced “ache”) was launched. Based in Nova Scotia, the initiative produced Art from the Heart, an exhibit that has travelled across the Maritimes and into Ontario. The exhibit emerged from research aiming to understand how Aboriginal children experience, perceive and communicate their pain to others. The paintings, created by Aboriginal children and teens, highlight their under-recognized expressions of pain.
“The events of the past week have provided a wonderful opportunity to gather people and talk about the importance of tackling children’s pain,” says Dr. Bonnie Stevens, Co-Director of the SickKids Pain Centre, Associate Chief of Nursing at the Research Institute, and Nominated Principal Investigator of PICH. “These discussions and connections drive the research we do to minimize pain and suffering in children around the world. We’re fortunate to see and include this exhibit from ACHH, which is a unique and powerful way for children to express their experiences with pain.”