Preventive Actions Like Cancer Screening Could Prevent Thousands of Deaths
If more Americans followed just five simple preventive health care practices, nearly 100,000 deaths each year could be prevented.
A new study shows that getting adults to follow simple steps like getting help to quit smoking or being screened for cancer could save tens of thousands of lives every year.
According to the study, the top five underutilized health care services with the biggest benefits are:
• Daily aspirin therapy to prevent heart disease.
• Smoking cessation. An additional 42,000 lives would be saved each year by increasing to 90% the portion of smokers who are advised by a health care professional to quit and are offered assistance. Currently, only 28% of smokers receive such services.
• Colorectal cancer screening. Another 14,000 additional lives would be saved each year by increasing to 90% the portion of adults aged 50 and older who are up to date with any recommended screening for colorectal cancer. Today, fewer than 50% of adults are up to date with screening.
• Flu vaccination. An additional 12,000 additional lives would be saved each year by increasing the portion of adults aged 50 and older who got an annual flu vaccination to 90%. Only 37% of adults currently get an annual flu vaccination.
• Breast cancer screening. An additional 3,700 lives would be saved each year by increasing to 90% the portion of women ages 40 and older who have been screened for breast cancer in the past 2 years. Today, 67% of women have been screened in the past 2 years.
Disparities in Preventive Health Care
“A lot of Americans are not getting lifesaving preventive services, particularly racial and ethnic minorities. As a result, too many people are dying prematurely or living with diseases that could have been prevented,” says Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, in a news release. Sanchez is chair of the National Commission on Prevention Priorities, which conducted the study. “We could get much better value for our health care dollar by focusing upstream on prevention.”
The study shows minorities consistently use preventive health care services less often than whites. For example, Hispanic smokers are 55% less likely to get assistance in quitting smoking than whites.
Overall, among the top 12 preventive health care services examined by the report, seven are used by about half or less of the people who should be using them.
By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD