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Building bridges to heal the hurt

Clinicians, scientists and healthcare experts from across the country met at the New Zealand Pain Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting at Hamilton’s Claudelands Conference and Exhibition Centre last week to discuss the problem of chronic pain in New Zealand and how to manage it more effectively.

Chronic pain is a significant burden on the New Zealand healthcare system, producing major financial, economic and social costs and disruptions.  In some parts of the world, chronic pain is considered a condition in its own right, rather than symptomatic, and the conference was an opportunity to raise its profile within national medical practice. 

“This year’s theme was ‘Acutely Chronic: Chronically Acute – Bridging the Divide’,” says conference convener Sue King. 

“Pain can have a rapid onset but in many cases it also has severe and persistent effects. The theme’s play on words was designed to get delegates from diverse specializations to learn from each other about pain and its challenges,” said King.

“‘Bridging the Divide’ was an invitation to work collaboratively, but also alluded to the conference’s location in Hamilton on the banks of the Waikato River, which is crossed by four bridges,” she said.

The diverse needs and interests of an audience ranging from nurses and surgeons to general practitioners, physiotherapists and ACC staff posed real challenges for conference programmers, but also illustrated the conference’s appeal to people from across New Zealand’s healthcare system. The solution was to deliver a programme with something for everyone. 

Conference sessions ranged across scientific fundamentals, recent developments in theory and research and how to address key issues such as back pain management in everyday practice. In keeping with a forum that sought to integrate biological, psychological and social approaches to pain management, the conference also explored new frontiers covering everything from new drugs and experimental digital imagery to art therapy.

The presence of two keynote speakers and a number of delegates from Australia was an example of trans-Tasman co-operation and further evidence of bridge building.

 “Medical specialists in New Zealand and Australia have a close working relationship, seeking to share resources and new approaches to theory, research and management,” said King.

Conference delegates were delighted with Claudelands. “Claudelands is a very flexible venue, allowing us to run a plenary session, several workshops and a four-day exhibition,” said Workz4U Limited conference manager Donna Clapham.  “Delegates were pleased with both the facilities and staff, who were very responsive to all our requests,” Clapham added.

Hamilton City’s Event Facilities Director of Business Development, Murray Jeffrey said it was a privilege to host the New Zealand Pain Society at Claudelands for the first time and great to see the conference embracing its river-city location with the conference theme.

“Hamilton is a national centre for health excellence and we were pleased to be able to welcome such a diverse cross-section of the healing disciplines to Claudelands. The New Zealand Pain Society is just one of a number of medical conferences being held at Claudelands and given the importance of the medical and health industry within our region we will be looking to attract more of these to our superb venue”.