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J Pain. 2012 Jul;13(7):611-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2012.02.004. Epub 2012 May 2.

Challenges and opportunities in pain management disparities research: implications for clinical practice, advocacy, and policy.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA.


Due to high profile initiatives at the national level, awareness of inadequate pain care affecting many groups in our society has never been greater. Nevertheless, increased awareness of pain disparities and the initiatives to address these disparities have yielded only modest progress, most notably in the form of growing appreciation that pain disparities likely result from multiple factors, including biological, psychological, environmental, health system, and cultural factors. Much less progress has been made in developing interventions that target these multiple determinants to reduce pain management disparities. In this paper we discuss key ethical and methodological challenges that undermine our capacity to investigate and develop meaningful interventions to improve pain outcomes among vulnerable populations. Key challenges in the areas of research engagement, recruitment, design, and measurement are discussed from both scientific and normative standpoints. Specific opportunities within emerging research paradigms to improve designs and measures are also discussed. Finally, we conclude with identifying potential synergies between the pain management disparities research agenda and the broader areas of clinical practice, advocacy, and policy that could help to move the field forward.


Researchers studying disparities in pain care face a number of ethical and methodological challenges that must be addressed to advance the field towards eliminating disparities. We discuss these ethical and methodological challenges and propose opportunities for paradigmatic revisions in areas of research engagement, design, measurement, advocacy, and policy.

Copyright © 2012 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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