Preventive care works, but many adults are missing out

Aug. 21, 2014—Preventive care is powerful medicine indeed. Something as simple as a routine vaccination or advice from a doctor can help people live better, longer lives. But a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report suggests that many people aren’t getting the stay-well care they need.

About the report

Researchers analyzed responses from two national health surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012. They sought to determine how adults used routine services now covered by certain health plans under the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s new health care law. While many preventive services are recommended, researchers focused on six that best fit the survey questions: HIV testing; discussing smoking cessation with a doctor; and being up-to-date on flu, tetanus, pneumonia and zoster (shingles) vaccinations. They also compared participants’ insurance and income levels.

Among the findings: People with insurance were more likely to receive preventive care than were those without it. But even many insured Americans weren’t getting their recommended routine care—suggesting that a lot of people may be missing an opportunity to safeguard their health.

For example, only 18.4 percent of people age 60 or older with insurance had ever received a shingles vaccination—and an even-lower 6.3 percent of those 60 or older without insurance had the shot. Similarly, while 44.2 percent of adults age 18 or older with insurance had a current flu vaccination, only 14.7 percent of adults without insurance got the vaccine.

The report doesn’t provide a perfect picture. But it could be a starting point for tracking the Affordable Care Act’s effects going forward. That’s because the data collection took place when many people were still uninsured and/or unaware of the preventive care covered in that law, according to the authors.

Read a summary of their findings in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report here.

The take-home message
Since many preventive services are covered by insurance, now might be a good time to make preventive care a priority. A primary care doctor can help you get what you need, but first it’s up to you to make an appointment.

After that, CDC has some suggestions for making the most of your visit:

  1. Ask about screenings and shots. Your age and other factors help determine when they’re needed.
  2. Know and share your family health history. Find out if a disease in your family raises your risk—and what you can do about it.
  3. Speak up for your body and your mind. Tell your doctor about any pain, lumps or other problems you’re experiencing, including sadness or stress.
  4. Consider your health goals. Whether that’s losing weight or quitting smoking, ask for help.

To find out more about the vaccines that you might need as an adult, click here.


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