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The Imperative for Racial Equality in Pain Science: A Way Forward

  • Staja Q. Booker
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Staja Q. Booker, PhD, RN, College of Nursing, University of Florida, PO Box 100197, Gainesville, FL 32610.
    Affiliations
    College of Nursing, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
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  • Emily J. Bartley
    Affiliations
    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
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  • Keesha Powell-Roach
    Affiliations
    College of Nursing, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
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  • Shreela Palit
    Affiliations
    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
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  • Calia Morais
    Affiliations
    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
    Search for articles by this author
  • Osheeca J. Thompson
    Affiliations
    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
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  • Yenisel Cruz-Almeida
    Affiliations
    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
    Search for articles by this author
  • Roger B. Fillingim
    Affiliations
    Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

    College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
    Search for articles by this author

      Highlights

      • Racism in pain research manifests in the scientific approaches and dissemination of findings.
      • Racism has also limited the people who are provided the opportunity to become pain scientists.
      • Equality in pain research must be applied equally for equity in pain prevention and treatment.
      • Shifting the scientific consciousness of researchers and the public takes courageous dialogue.
      • Justice compels recognition of chronic pain as a national health disparity issue.

      Abstract

      Racial equity is imperative to the future and integrity of scientific inquiry. In 2020, citizens of the United States (and globally) witnessed one of the most vile and egregious experiences of police brutality and systemic racism in recent history, the public execution of a Black American man. While some may isolate this and other similar events from influencing the scientific endeavors of pain researchers, events such as this can have a direct impact on the study, lived experience, and expression of pain in Black Americans. To truly understand the biopsychosocial effects of inequality and injustice on pain disparities, we must consider the unintended consequences that our current research approaches have in limiting the reliability and validity of scientific discovery. As we reflect on our current research practices in an effort to improve pain science, this perspective article discusses ways to initiate positive change in order to advance the science of pain in more equitable ways, not just for Black Americans, but for all individuals that identify as part of an underrepresented group.

      Perspective

      Elimination of inequities in pain care and research requires the identification, naming, and mitigation of systemic discriminatory and biased practices that limit our understanding of pain disparities. Now is the time to divest from traditional research methods and invest in equitable and innovative approaches to support pain researchers in advancing the science and improving the lives of people with pain.

      Key words

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