Power over Pain Portal: A stepped-care virtual solution to deliver early intervention to Canadian youth with chronic pain
The COVID‑19 pandemic is presenting one of the greatest threats to youth mental health seen in generations. Pain is one of the most common symptoms of extreme stress in youth. Without treatment, this acute pain will become chronic (CP; pain lasting >3 months), a problem already affecting 1 in 5 Canadian youth. CP in childhood can trigger a wave of mental health issues that carry forward into adulthood. In 2019, our team revealed that “poor access to pain care” is a priority for youth with CP and their families. Unfortunately, COVID‑19 has only made access more difficult. In 2020, our team created an online “stepped care” program called the Power over Pain Portal. Stepped care is a promising way to improve access to CP care. Stepped care tailors care based on a person’s symptom severity. Like a ladder, a person may start with one type of care and then “step up” or “step down” to more or less intense care depending on need. Over the past year, we worked with hundreds of youth and healthcare professionals from across Canada to understand how the pandemic has affected pain and mental health. We also summarized all online pain management programs for youth to find the best resources to embed into the Portal. Together with a diverse group of youth, we have now co-designed the online Portal. The next step (focus of new grant) is to pilot-test the Portal with youth to ensure it can be implemented effectively and will be clinically beneficial. We will recruit 100 youth with CP to use the Portal for 2 months and see how they interact with the features and if it helps to improve their pain and mental health. We will include a mixture of youth who represent different ages, sexes, genders, sexual orientations, races, dwellings, and school/employment status. This study is important because it will allow our team to understand how the Portal works in the real world before wide public release to support all Canadian youth with CP with accessible, evidence-based pain care.