A year ago, I blogged about the release of three funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) seeking nondrug approaches to pain and related conditions in U.S. military service members and veterans. Thirteen new grants are now funded as a result of these FOAs.
For this initiative, NCCAM worked with our NIH sister institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and collaborated for the first time with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Health Services Research and Development Service. This collaborative approach offers many advantages, such as pooling strengths, identifying shared interests, learning from others’ ongoing studies, and avoiding duplication of effort.
While the primary focus of the FOAs was the management of pain, which disproportionately affects active military personnel and veterans, we also encouraged research on interventions targeting pain and comorbid conditions and symptoms. Patients, providers, and health care systems urgently need additional strategies not only for pain, but for the problems that often accompany it such as post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. The tremendous physical and psychological needs contribute to overmedication and opioid misuse.
Some of these grants will investigate self-management approaches and innovative methods for delivering interventions. Some will leverage new technologies, such as mobile neurofeedback devices that can display real-time brain activity, or a mobile app or Web platform for learning mindfulness meditation. The research will document whether such approaches are feasible, acceptable, and user-friendly to patients, and whether they are helpful for those who may be unable to commit to an intensive course of treatment or extra travel. Improving the reach and availability of interventions and self-management approaches, while taking into account patient needs and preferences, will help optimize health care as well as self-management of pain and associated problems.
The FOAs also encouraged research on integrative approaches and models of care that would address symptoms, emphasize coordinated care, and include multiple modalities. Some projects will increase knowledge through secondary data analysis and/or mining medical record data. This will tell us more about pain incidence and prevalence, utilization of different types of care (including complementary or integrative health approaches), associated outcomes, and pain-care quality.
We are proud to support these important projects to provide research evidence with the goal of improving quality of life and options for safe, effective pain management—not only for military personnel and veterans, but the millions of other Americans who struggle with pain every day.