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New Study: Screening for Problem Drinking is One of the Most Cost-Effective Clinical Preventive Services

Current very low delivery rates should get much more attention from physicians

BLOOMINGTON, Minn., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A study by HealthPartners Research Foundation has found that screening for problem drinking is as cost-effective as some of the most used preventive services like childhood immunization, screening for colon cancer and hypertension, and taking aspirin to prevent stroke or heart attack. However, the screening is one of the least used by physicians in clinical settings.

"Alcohol screening and counseling are among the most important preventive services in terms of health impact and cost savings," said Dr. Leif Solberg, the study's lead investigator from HealthPartners Research Foundation. "This service deserves special attention by clinicians and care delivery systems since current delivery levels are the lowest among comparatively ranked services."

The study also found that screening leads to positive health outcomes up to four years after the intervention, and reduces alcohol-related death.

-- On average, alcohol abuse costs the user $15,000 in lifetime medical and other alcohol-attributable expenses, 90 percent of which are preventable through behavior change.

-- Only 8.7 percent of problem drinkers report being screened and receiving assistance beyond simple quit advice.

-- The underutilized screening ranks among top five most cost-effective preventive services, ahead of nearly 20 other services evaluated by standardized measures.

-- The study results are scheduled to appear in the January 8, 2008 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

HealthPartners Research Foundation

HealthPartners family of care includes HealthPartners Research Foundation ( Conducting about 250 research projects each year, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge through research to improve the health of our members and the community. Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners ( family of health care companies serve more than one million medical and dental health plan members nationwide and is the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation, providing care, coverage, research and education to improve the health of members, patients and the community.

SOURCE HealthPartners
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