From local to global: promoting societal impact of pain – ‘Sine Dolore World Park’

by Neil Betteridge 

Living with pain is hardly a walk in the park. Unless, of course, it’s Sine Dolore World Park, the annual week-long event that uses the concept of a theme park to heighten awareness about the impact of chronic pain. The fourth consecutive Sine Dolore World Park occurs 1-6 May, 2018 in Menorca.

Founded by Jordi Moya, President of the Sine Dolore European Pain Foundation, the week sees the entire island given over to highlighting the impact of chronic pain. The event touches on how people living with persistent pain can be better treated and managed – including an important role for self-management. Following the theme park motif, the week invites participation from all sectors and major institutions, including political, economic, military and ecclesiastical entities.

Key amongst the issues highlighted are the importance of supportive environments and social infrastructure. It is a major challenge for advocates in any country to ensure that patients access what they need, when they need it. Many will never get far if their social participation is not enabled – even if therapies that could help them are approved and technically available.
So alongside promoting awareness and access, the world park also highlights the need for physical movement. Sport activity and exercise is a major feature of the park. Similarly, public transport is made both plentiful and accessible, reminding participants that “access” is more than a matter of economic feasibility alone.

This broad-scale approach is one which GAfPA, and EAfPA in Europe, supports. It is impossible and counter-productive to separate reimbursement issues from the day-to-day lives of people with serious conditions, such as chronic pain or diseases where pain is a major factor.

This very issue came up at a recent meeting in the European Parliament, Brussels looking at chronic pain issues. Held prior to Sine Dolore World Park, it was entitled, ““From local to global: promoting societal impact of pain – ‘Sine Dolore World Park’.” I had the honour of presenting on behalf of GAfPA at the meeting, organised in part by Active Citizenship Network, with whom GAfPA is an official partner.

One of the most striking features of the discussion was the way in which patient access issues in chronic pain are impacted by matters that go well beyond affordability and availability. “Chronic pain is a disease in itself that alters the quality of life of 60 million European citizens,” explained MEP Rosa Estaràs Ferragut of the EPP Group and host of the meeting.

In sum, the “Sine Dolore World Park” may not provide a wand for others to magically conjure up a solution to the huge problems posed by chronic pain, in Europe and globally. But it does bring to one small place a model that has much to offer for those of us seeking to improve quality of life for people living with pain.

Which might, in the end, mean it is not just worth the admission fee, but also capable of providing something far more exciting than the average rollercoaster ride.