case study

Galvanizing Pain Leaders to Advocate for Better Care

Fellows standing on the steps of a building.

The Challenge

One hundred million Americans suffer from chronic pain – In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released the report Relieving Pain in America, detailing the chronic pain epidemic in America. With so many Americans suffering from chronic pain and so few resources to address this public health problem, building awareness about the issue, educating the public and policymakers, and identifying leaders in the field to serve as life-long advocates is of the utmost importance.

Our Approach

Since 2004, Burness has worked with the Mayday Fund to create and manage the Mayday Pain & Society Fellowship: A Media & Policy Initiative, a program established to engage, train and coach pain experts to be strong spokespeople and powerful advocates on the issue of pain management. This unique model has resulted in ten years of building successful leading advocates in the field and has increased awareness about the need for better care and more research for those suffering in pain.

For ten years, Burness has conducted four-day intensive media, message and policy trainings for the fellows in Washington, DC, followed by coaching on op-ed placement and further advocacy.

Results and Impact

Through the Mayday Fellowship, Burness has trained more than 60 pain management leaders, helping them achieve specific advocacy goals. Over the years, we’ve helped fellows place op-eds, letters-to-the-editor, and get coverage in the Washington Post, NPR, the New England Journal of Medicine, Roll Call and many other national, regional and local outlets. Burness helped one fellow prepare for his TED talk. His talk, “The Mystery of Chronic Pain,” has been viewed more than 1.7 million times and remains one of the most popular TED presentations. (Watch below.) We encouraged and supported one scientist-fellow to develop a “TED-Ed” lesson, “How Does Your Brain Respond to Pain?” The lesson has been viewed more than a million times and is one of the 100 most viewed TED-Ed lessons.

Many fellows also contributed to the National Pain Strategy, the blueprint for changing pain care in America, which was issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

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