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Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian youth who live with chronic pain

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Healthcare Delivery & Policy, Mental Health & Wellbeing

Chronic pain (CP) impacts 1 in 5 Canadian youth. Youth with CP have higher levels of anxiety and depression than peers without pain, and more limitations in activities of daily life. Our team previously revealed that "access to pain care" is a top priority for youth with CP and their families. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only made access to care more difficult. CP clinics can no longer see patients in person and only some can offer virtual care. In the meantime, youth have also lost access to counselors and social workers due to school closures and physical distancing rules have likely made their anxiety, social isolation, and stress even worse. The drastic changes caused by the pandemic offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to improve access to CP care both now and in the future. "Stepped care" is a promising way to do this. A good thing about stepped care is that it personalizes treatment based on how bad a person's symptoms are. Similar to a ladder, a person may start with one type of care and then "step up" or "step down" to more or less intense care depending on need. We want to hear directly from youth, families, and healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the CP community about the impacts of COVID-19. We will then create a "stepped care" program called the Kids Pain Portal. This online Portal will increase rapid access to pain care and help make sure youth get the right treatment at the right time.