Joint HHS-DoD-VA initiative will award multiple grants totaling $81 million.

Through an interagency partnership, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announce a multi-component research project focusing on nondrug approaches for pain management addressing the needs of service members and veterans. Twelve research projects, totaling approximately $81 million over six years (pending available funds), will focus on developing, implementing, and testing cost-effective, large-scale, real-world research on nondrug approaches for pain management and related conditions in military and veteran health care delivery organizations. The National Institutes of Health will be the lead HHS agency in this partnership.

“Finding solutions for chronic pain is of critical importance, especially for military personnel and veterans who are disproportionately affected,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “Bringing the science to bear through these real-world research projects will accelerate our search for pain management strategies for all Americans, especially as we work to address the nation’s opioid crisis.”

These projects will provide important information about the feasibility, acceptability, safety, and effectiveness of nondrug approaches in treating pain. Types of approaches being studied include mindfulness/meditative interventions, movement interventions (e.g., structured exercise, tai chi, yoga), manual therapies (e.g., spinal manipulation, massage, acupuncture), psychological and behavioral interventions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy), integrative approaches that involve more than one intervention, and integrated models of multi-modal care.   

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of NIH, is contributing more than half of the total funding, and it is the lead for this multi-agency initiative called the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory, which is modeled on the successful NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory. This initiative also addresses the need to focus on “advancing better practices for pain management,” which is outlined in HHS’ 5-point strategy  to combat the opioid crisis.

“NCCIH has made pain research a priority — especially in military and veteran populations. We first partnered with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the VA in 2014 and are delighted to expand the partnership to include the DoD and additional HHS/NIH components,” said Dr. Josephine Briggs, director of NCCIH.

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