Promoting preventive care: New tool tailored for baby boomer care

A report and an online resource are intended to boost health screenings and vaccinations for adults age 50 to 64.

Posted May 31, 2010.

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"An ounce of prevention ..." The saying is familiar to Americans of a certain age, yet many fail to act on it.

Research shows that fewer than one in four adults age 50 to 64 receives basic cancer screenings and vaccinations. Another example: Fewer than half of at-risk adults in that age group are protected against pneumococcal disease.

Combine the health consequences of skipping preventive care with an increasingly aging population, and the toll is both predictable and profound.

Fueled by graying baby boomers, the number of Americans ages 50 to 64 will grow from 55 million in 2007 to 63 million by 2015 -- about an average of 1 million per year. These 50- and 60-somethings will make up about 20% of the population. Most will have one or more chronic health problems. Treating these chronic diseases, many of them preventable, won't be cheap: The tab will add billions of dollars to an already strained health care system.

The American Medical Association and other organizations have long encouraged preventive health services and worked together to help everyone lead healthier lives. One such collaborative effort started in 2007, when the AMA, AARP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teamed up, resulting in a report, "Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64: Community and Clinical Partnerships," released in November 2009.

The report spelled out recommended preventive services, such as cholesterol and breast cancer screenings, and sought to strengthen collaborations between communities and health care professionals. It also provided national and state data for monitoring the use of preventive measures such as flu vaccinations. The report's "calls to action" included developing and promoting policies to enhance delivery of preventive services and community public health strategies among these adults.

Information from that report was used by the CDC to help create its latest resource, an online tool to help physicians and others make preventive efforts more accessible to the 50-to-64 age group apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dach_pps.

With this tool, physicians can examine expert panel recommendations related to screening and risk factors. Among other things, the website also can help doctors and communities see how often screenings and vaccinations are done.

The data are searchable by location, screening methods and risk factors such as obesity and smoking (the latter contributes to one in five deaths in the 50-to-64 age group). Some evidence-based interventions, such as an initiative involving four states, are highlighted to encourage community-clinical partnerships to improve delivery of preventive services.

Research shows that prevention works. With resources such as the preventive services report and online tool, physicians have more in their arsenal to ensure that baby boomers and others get screened for and vaccinated against the preventable health problems that can reduce the quality and length of their lives.

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