I was honored to attend the 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which took place January 23 to 26, to which I was invited as part of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute team. I gave 2 presentations there titled, “Mindset Interventions for Pain Relief” and “The Psychology of Pain Relief,” and was faculty in a 3-hour workshop with Matthieu Ricard, PhD, on “Exploring the Mysteries of the Mind.”

The close to 3000 WEF participants included 28 heads of state, in addition to chief executive officers, billionaire investors, and recognized world leaders in particular areas of interest or study.

The theme of this year’s WEF conference was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” an apropos choice, considering the current global political climate, and also relevant to the issue of healthcare access — specifically pain care — in the United States and beyond.

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Creating a shared future means working together to meet the collective needs. This cannot be done without careful attention to the needs of each individual. Along these lines, precision medicine had a welcome presence in the content of the WEF. Precision medicine recognizes that only by meeting each patient’s specific needs is the entire system improved. Never before has there been such a desperate need for precision pain care as a pathway to assure best patient-centered practices and prevent forced removal of some types of pain care.

In addition to my sessions on empowered pain relief, Stanford University’s David Spiegel, MD, spoke about the efficacy of hypnosis for pain relief, and Alia Crum, PhD, presented on the interface between mindset and health. I was pleased to see the audience’s interest spanning from a personal, organizational/industry, national, to a global perspective.

Pain education featured prominently in this regard. In my sessions, I explained the role of psychology in the experience and treatment of pain, how psychological factors shape the structure and functioning of the central nervous system, and how brief, low-cost, and scalable behavioral interventions can address gaps in pain education and provide people worldwide with the information and skills to alter the trajectory of their pain and suffering.

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These psychobehavioral strategies are not intended to replace medical approaches (although in some cases they may); rather, the goal is to facilitate the effectiveness of medical treatments when people have precious access to them and to provide those who do not have medical access a way to help themselves.

I found the WEF to focus intensely on addressing the most pressing humanitarian needs. The WEF was the perfect place to seed this message of empowered pain relief and I look forward to seeing where it carries us from here.

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