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CDC: Before 2010, only half of adults followed disease-prevention recommendations

ATLANTA — Only about half of U.S. adults received selected preventive services — such as screenings, consultations and prescriptions — from a healthcare professional before 2010, according to a study published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, "Use of Selected Clinical Preventive Services Among Adults – United States, 2007-2010," provides baseline data on the use of selected adult preventive services, including aspirin or other blood-thinning therapy, controlling blood pressure, screening for and controlling high cholesterol, and ending tobacco use.

Among the findings:

  • Of patients with heart disease primarily affecting the blood vessels, only 47% were prescribed the recommended daily use of aspirin during visits to their doctors;

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for the prevention of high blood pressure state that adults 18 years old and older with high blood pressure should receive a clinical treatment plan that might include medications and monthly follow-up visits until healthy blood pressure is achieved, yet less than half (44%) of people with high blood pressure had it under control;

  • Similarly, despite strong evidence that screening and treating for high cholesterol reduces sickness and death due to heart disease, about 33.4% of men and 25.6% of women were not screened during the preceding five years. Of those adults identified with high levels of LDL cholesterol, only about 32% of men and 32% of women had it under control; and

  • According to data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Health Interview Summary, fewer than 1-in-13 tobacco users were prescribed medications to help them end their tobacco use when they saw their doctor.

"Clinical preventive services prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer and other diseases and save lives," stated CDC director Thomas Frieden. "This report provides a snapshot of preventive services for U.S. adults before 2010. As we look to the future, we can track how our nation’s health is progressing through better prevention in health care."

The data could change in the future because of certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the CDC noted. These include a requirement for new private health insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services with no cost-sharing. The healthcare law also requires coverage for a new annual wellness visit under Medicare and eliminates cost sharing for recommended preventive services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The law also gives state Medicaid programs financial incentives to cover preventive services for adults and supports initiatives to improve public understanding of the benefits of preventive services.

In 2011, the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service through their private health insurance plans. An estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit.

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