Older Adults Not Getting Recommended Preventive Services: CDC

"If we can help patients age 65 and older get the recommended preventive screenings and regular immunizations, we could significantly reduce unnecessary illness," said Edward Langston, M.D., an American Medical Association board member.

Critical gaps exist between older Americans who receive potentially lifesaving preventive services and those who do not, according to a new report from agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Clinical prevention services examined in the report include vaccinations that protect against influenza and pneumococcal disease (e.g., bloodstream infections, meningitis, and pneumonia), screenings for the early detection of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, lipid disorders, osteoporosis, and smoking cessation counseling.

The report was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with HHS' Administration on Aging, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The document, "Enhancing Use of Clinical Preventive Services Among Older Adults: Closing the Gap," highlights the need to promote preventive services for adults age 65 and older, especially among minorities.

"Millions of Americans are not getting proven clinical preventive services that we know can prevent disease and improve quality of life," said Lynda Anderson, Ph.D., director of the Healthy Aging Program at CDC and one of the primary authors. "The report takes stock of current levels of recommended services by older adults, and it becomes obvious that many of these services are woefully underutilized."

About 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day; by 2030, about 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 older.

The report also addresses the use of preventive services by diverse populations. It says 49 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders and 47 percent of Hispanics reported not being screened for colorectal cancer, in comparison to 34 percent of whites. More than 50 percent of Hispanics, 47 percent of blacks, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 36 percent of whites report never receiving a pneumococcal vaccination.

According to the report, challenges underlying these disparities are complex and reach beyond the traditional health care arena of patient-provider interactions. Older adults may not be aware of the services recommended for their age group or may not know that the services are covered by Medicare, the report said.

"The section of the report titled 'Making a Difference' features innovative strategies applied at the local, state, and national levels to increase the use of preventive services in underserved communities," said Wayne Giles, M.D., M.S., director, Division of Adult and Community Health at CDC. "By putting into practice effective community and clinical strategies, we can dramatically reduce the gaps highlighted in this report."

The showcased activities include: promotion of policies to increase community access, making services available in convenient community settings, such as providing influenza vaccinations at polling places on election days, and building awareness through media.

"If we can help patients age 65 and older get the recommended preventive screenings and regular immunizations, we could significantly reduce unnecessary illness," said Edward Langston, M.D., an American Medical Association board member.

To view the full report and for more information about CDC′s health aging activities visit www.cdc.gov/aging.

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