“Drawings of My Pain” Exhibition in Portugal Calls Attention to Childhood Pain

Nov 14, 2017

The Portuguese Association for the Study of Pain in October launched a National Day Against Pain with an exhibition titled “Drawings of My Pain” at the Pediatric Hospital of Coimbra. The exhibition showcases children’s drawings from annual contests APED has held since 2005.

Sofia Fonseca - 6 yearsThe contest’s purpose is to highlight drawings from hospitalized children that reveal their perspectives of pain, thereby raising awareness to value children’s complaints and the importance of proper treatment. The competition attracts children up to age 12 who are hospitalized in national health facilities or who are undergoing treatment in day hospitals.

The current exhibition, which will travel through Portuguese hospitals in the coming year, is geared to the general public and health professionals. It draws attention to ways to improve approaches to children’s pain in our hospitals and clinics. We hope to teach parents and caregivers what is possible in managing children’s pain and ways they can help and collaborate. We also wish to get the attention of the hospital management boards, alerting them to the need for institutional commitment so that they create conditions that promote comprehensive pain management in children and adolescents.

The exhibition is composed of 21 panels of a “journey” through pain, and the management of pain in children and adolescents. It addresses such topics as the types of pain children have; myths and facts about children’s pain; pain in specific situations, such as postsurgical, during procedures, and during vaccination; and what should constitute the ideal pediatric chronic pain program or unit.

Diana Venâncio - 9 yearsOver the past 25 years, scientific research has brought to light the long-term consequences of undertreated pain in children. New therapeutic resources have emerged, and the effectiveness of a multimodal approach to managing pain has been demonstrated. Although the knowledge base to recognize, prevent, and treat pain has evolved immensely, the implementation of this knowledge is still very uneven throughout Portugal, and as a result, children suffer unnecessarily.

In recent years, several health-care professionals have begun to introduce changes, and pain-working groups have emerged in several hospitals in Portugal to promote educational and practical changes. Despite tremendous advances in clinical practice, pain management in Portuguese health-care institutions continues to be uneven. Much work remains to be done.

Pediatric chronic pain is still unrecognized and remains largely untreated in Portugal. There is an urgent need to create multidisciplinary teams that specialize in addressing chronic pain in children and adolescents.

-- Clara Abadesso, coordinator of the Child and Adolescent Pain Working Group of the Portuguese Association for the Study of Pain

Portugal pediatric pain exhibit

 Clara Abadesso, coordinator of the Child and Adolescent Pain Working Group of the Portuguese Association for the Study of Pain, stands near two of the 21 panels containing children's drawings about their experiences with pain.