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Too Few Older Adults Get Recommended Screenings

Report looks to improve health of this group with better preventive care,,

THURSDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Screening for cancer and other preventive health measures can prolong lives, but only 25 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 in the United States are getting these recommended screenings, a new report shows.

Prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AARP and the American Medical Association, the report also lays out ways to improve the health of these adults by increasing the breadth of preventive services.

"This is really looking at untapped opportunities to improve the health of adults," said report co-author Lynda A. Anderson, director of the CDC's Healthy Aging Program. "It really talks about broadening the use of these potentially lifesaving preventive services."

Areas of special attention in the report include influenza vaccine, cholesterol screening, colorectal cancer screening and for women, breast and cervical cancer screening. Also included are screenings for other behaviors that could hurt health such as binge drinking.

Anderson said they hope to institute programs for adults that are like those for children in keeping their health care up-to-date. "We are trying to get adults to think in the same way -- are you really up-to-date- on your services?" she explained.

By 2015, middle-aged adults will make up 20 percent of the U.S. population. These people are at the greatest risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. In addition, about one-third of these adults are uninsured or underinsured, increasing the challenges of providing preventive services, the report noted.

In addition, most people go to their doctor with a specific complaint and often preventive screening is never mentioned, Anderson noted. The new effort is "really looking for ways to support providers," she said.

"This report highlights that national experts agree on a set of recommended clinical preventive services," Dr. Matthew T. McKenna, associate director for medical affairs at the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said during a late morning news conference Thursday.

"We are talking about a concerted effort to align messages that build awareness, about creating environments that make services readily available and convenient and adopting public policies that promote healthy behaviors and increase access to services," McKenna said. "This can make a discernable impact on our nation's health, health care and social services."

In addition, the report discusses model programs, policies and strategies that communities can adopt together with health-care partners, to ensure services get to those who need them. It also highlights proven strategies that clinics and communities have used to promote preventive services.

One such program, called SPARC (Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration), is an organization in the community responsible for looking at what services are needed and organizing these services, as well as getting services to people, Anderson said.

Individuals should look at "what kind of services do you need--what do I need to do to maximize my own health? What are the things I can do make sure as I am growing older that I avoid having chronic illnesses? That I make sure I get the physical activity I need, I make sure I am the right weight, so I can do the things I want to do," Anderson said.

"It's not just about health -- it's really quality of life," she said.

More information

For more information on healthy aging, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Lynda A. Anderson, Ph.D., director, Healthy Aging Program, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Nov. 19, 2009, teleconference with: Matthew T. McKenna, M.D., M.P.H., associate director, medical affairs, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC; Nov. 19, 2009, report, Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64: Community and Clinical Partnerships

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