Research focus:

The co-occurrence of mental health problems (MHP) such as anxiety symptoms and chronic primary pain1 in children and caregivers constitutes a serious health problem which manifests in multiple ways: Children with chronic primary pain suffer substantially more from MHP compared to healthy children (Balottin, Fusar Poli, Termine, Molteni, & Galli, 2013). The co-occurrence aggravates and leads to severe MHP and pain problems in adulthood when untreated (Vinall, Pavlova, Asmundson, Rasic, & Noel, 2016).

Affected children display significantly worsened treatment outcome, even in the most intensive form of treatment, i.e., intensive interdisciplinary pain programs (Hirschfeld et al., 2013; Simons et al., 2018). The co-occurrence is also worrisome in parents. Children of affected parents constitute a high-risk group for developing both, MHP and chronic pain (Stone & Wilson, 2016). Despite the deleterious effects of this co-occurrence, there is a substantial lack of translational research into risk factors and mutually maintaining factors, a lack of prevention and treatment strategies and a lack of communication of the research findings into clinical practice.

It is therefore my vision to make a substantial impact to decrease the co-occurrence of MHP and chronic pain in three ways (see Figure 1):

  1. developing translational research projects,
  2. implement evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies,
  3. engage in science communication with children and caregivers, child educational professionals and child health care professionals.

For an overview of the current research projects, please follow this link.