IMPORTANT UPDATES

Developing a Culturally Relevant Chronic Sickle Cell Pain Intervention

Children’s Pediatric Psychologist, Soumitri Sil, PhD, received NIH funding to develop and test a new non-pharmological multicomponent integrative pain management intervention for adolescents with chronic pain related to sickle cell disease, a disease that primarily affects Black and African Americans in the U.S.

Chronic pain is difficult to manage. Fear and anxiety about pain often cause patients to disengage from once-enjoyed daily activities, negatively impacting their quality of life.

And for chronic pain sufferers in marginalized groups, such as certain racial or ethnic groups, the problem can be even worse – as most non-pharmacological pain interventions are not culturally relevant and, therefore, not as effective.

Sickle cell patient in hospital bed

Donna Hyland

Soumitri Sil, PhD, Director of the Pediatric Psychology Clinic at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, received a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative to address this issue. Dr. Sil and team are developing and testing a new pain management intervention for adolescents with chronic pain related to sickle cell disease, a disease that primarily affects Black and African Americans in the U.S.

With the funding, Dr. Sil will gather feedback from patients, families and community healthcare workers to form advisory boards on how best to modify an existing intervention for another chronic pain condition, juvenile fibromyalgia, to meet the unique needs of adolescents with chronic sickle cell pain. As a group-based, telehealth intervention made up of mind-body, cognitive-behavioral and neuromuscular movement treatment components, the existing tool will form the basis of a new multicomponent integrative intervention specifically tailored for sickle cell disease to reduce pain and increase engagement in daily activities.

Next, Dr. Sil will lead a pilot test of the intervention to optimize its feasibility and acceptability based on multiple iterations of the group treatment. Once the final intervention is established, she will conduct a randomized trial of 150 adolescents across three sites to evaluate its effectiveness.

“Our work will fill a critical scientific gap – which is the availability of an evidence-based, multicomponent integrative intervention package for chronic sickle cell disease pain,” says Dr. Sil, who is also an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. “It is innovative because it is culturally tailored to individual family needs, targets psychological co-morbidities that are often excluded in clinical trials and utilizes telemedicine to enhance treatment access and delivery.”

Soumitri Sil, PhD, is a Pediatric Psychologist at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Sil’s specialization in pediatric pain management focuses on the development and evaluation of behavioral interventions to promote the health and functioning of children and adolescents with chronic sickle cell pain.

Dr. Sil received her Doctor of Philosophy in clinical child psychology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and her residency and fellowship training at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.