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, and osteoporosis, and smoking cessation counseling.
“We know prevention is critical to healthy living and independence,” said Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging. “It is important that we continue our efforts at the community level to reach all older Americans.”
According to the report, challenges underlying these disparities are complex and reach beyond the traditional healthcare 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.
“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, MD, an American Medical Association board member.
Non-federal organizations contributing to the report included: AARP, American Medical Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Gerontological Society of America, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, National Association of County and City Health Officials, and National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities.
Full report: “Enhancing Use of Clinical Preventive Services Among Older Adults: Closing the Gap” (PDF format)
Interactive map: Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64