IHPC shares insights from Congressional Health and Wellness Congress

The second annual Congressional Health and Wellness Caucus took place on Wednesday March 6 at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Experts from academic, government, and association settings educated Congress members and staff attendees on the field of integrative pain management, covering multi-modality models of care, including models currently being implemented within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, university hospital systems, and integrative pain clinics across the country.

Co-led by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN), the caucus was held for an audience of 50 democratic and republican House offices, representing 24 states, and eight Senate offices, including the Democratic Leader, Democratic Whip, Assistant Democratic Leader, Senate HELP Committee, and Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, according to a statement released by the Integrative Health Policy Consortium.

The event included both a briefing and demonstration of interdisciplinary therapies, with the goal of providing information on effective, non-opioid, integrative approaches to the treatment of pain, which will hopefully impact future policy, the IHPC said.

Margaret Chesney, PhD, IHPC’s special advisor and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, provided the opening remarks, followed by presentations by both Rep. Chu and Rep. Walorski.

In her remarks, Rep. Walorski said practitioners in her district are eager to see the non-opioid treatment methods become more integral in patient’s conversations. She shared a story of the death of her friend, Todd Graham, MD, a local physician who believed in finding creative and alternative ways to address pain. A little more than a year ago, he was shot in his practice driveway by an opioid addict after trying to falsify records to get opioids. Graham’s refusal led to his death, Rep Walorski said. This tragedy, she said, is the motivation behind her work to expand the scope of integrative care for chronic pain.

Rep. Chu held nothing back as she praised the skills of experts in the room and how their respective professions can make a significant difference in the opioid crisis.

“The opioid epidemic is taking over lives in every state every day,” said Rep. Chu in the IHPC statement. “Right now, deaths from overdoses exceeds those of all other deaths for people under 50. The good news is that studies conducted by [the National Institutes of Health] have concluded that alternative treatments can be effective in treating conditions like chronic pain.”

Rep. Chu shared how she has been a long-time advocate of acupuncture. In 2001, when she was elected to the state legislature, Rep. Chu said she worked to get approval for acupuncture to be included in the workman’s compensation system.

“I understand well, how important these alternative therapies are,” Rep. Chu said. “But here in Congress, our biggest challenge is convincing our fellow members that not only do these integrative therapies work, but they should be available to all patients no matter how they get their health coverage.”

The caucus made great headway this year to get that message across, according to the IHPC. There were multiple opportunities for legislators and staff to learn about integrative medicine. Integrative health experts from academic, government, and association settings held an educational briefing, a lunch featuring anti-inflammatory foods, as well as demonstrations on complementary therapies whereby attendees experienced the benefits of integrative medicine for pain and stress management.

In the coming months, the IHPC will post each of the speaker’s videos. The first video, of Rep. Chu’s speech, can be found here.