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National action plan to prevent chronic pain

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 24.2.2017 9.00 | Published in English on 27.2.2017 at 9.41
Press release 26/2017

Every fifth Finn in working age suffers from chronic pain that may even lead to loss of work ability. Surveys indicate that resources available for treating chronic pain and cancer pain are inadequate compared to treatment needs. There are also significant regional differences in the availability of treatment.

An expert group appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has drawn up a proposal for an action plan for treatment of chronic pain and cancer pain for 2017–2020.

The objective of the national action plan is to prevent chronic pain and treat and rehabilitate patients suffering from chronic pain or cancer pain in an effective way, regardless of where they live. The action plan presents central measures for establishing equal, patient-centered services of high quality for treating chronic pain and pain caused by cancer. The plan is based on a multidisciplinary and multiprofessional approach.

In addition to relieving pain, the objective for the treatment of prolonged pain is to maintain patients’ functional capacity and improve their life quality. Particularly primary health services need better conditions to treat pain in accordance with treatment recommendations. When developing the activities, the emphasis is on preventing chronic pain by promoting healthy lifestyles, treating acute pain efficiently and maintaining patients’ functional capacity and work ability.

Incapacity for work due to chronic pain causes considerable costs to society. The costs of daily allowances and disability pensions due to back illnesses alone amounted to EUR 469 million in 2013. Efficient pain treatment can be profitable regarding its overall cost-effectiveness. Significant savings can be reached by investing in prevention and early rehabilitation and by reforming practices in primary and specialised healthcare.

According to the multi-professional operation model, primary healthcare carries the main responsibility for the prevention and treatment of chronic pain because the first assessment of a patient’s situation is made by primary healthcare and most patients receive their whole primary treatment and even continued treatment in primary healthcare. The ability of primary healthcare to provide effective treatment to patients suffering from chronic pain should be improved by training and consultations. Even specialised healthcare needs additional resources to support primary healthcare by offering them consultation and training and by developing the field in general. 

Pain treatment is included in the overall symptomatic treatment of patients with incurable cancer. Treatment of cancer pain can be organised through a model where the treatment is divided into three levels depending on how demanding it is.

The expert group submitted their proposal to Juha Rehula, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, on Friday 24 February 2017.


Jaakko Yrjö-Koskinen, Ministerial Counsellor for Health/Medical Affairs, tel. +358 50 3484877


Kroonisen kivun ja syöpäkivun hoidon kansallinen toimintasuunnitelma vuosille 2017–2020 (National Action Plan for Treatment of Chronic Pain and Cancer Pain
for 2017—2020) (Reports and memorandums of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2017:4) (In Finnish)

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