U.S. preventive care lagging, especially among minorities.
The 2006 National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report, both released by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found that preventive care lags "significantly" behind other gains in health care.
For example, only about 52 percent of adults reported receiving recommended colorectal screenings, a concern because about 56,000 Americans die from colorectal cancer each year and 150,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. The reports also found that fewer than half of obese adults reported being counseled on diet by a health care professional, and only 49 percent of people with asthma were told how to change their environment to lessen the frequency of attacks.
Among adults with diabetes, only 48 percent received all three recommended screenings--a blood sugar test, foot exam and eye exam--to prevent complications. AHRQ officials estimated about $2.5 billion could be saved yearly by eliminating hospitalizations linked to diabetes complications.
The federal disparities report found access to care varied widely between racial and ethnic groups as well as by income. Blacks received poorer quality of care for 73 percent of the report's core measures, which included vaccinations, preventive screenings, hospital treatment of heart attack or pneumonia and services for diabetes. Hispanics received poorer quality of care than non-Hispanic whites for 77 percent of the measures, and low-income people received just 71 percent of the measures.
Disparities were particularly pronounced when it came to prevention, according to the report. Obese blacks were less likely to be told they were overweight by their doctor or other provider. Colorectal cancer screening rates were lower among blacks and Asians than for whites. Among people ages 65 and older, Hispanics and people with low incomes were less likely to have ever received a pneumonia vaccine.
While health disparities are not new, some are getting worse, according to the report. Those include the gap between blacks and whites for access to a regular health provider and a lack of care or delay in receiving care because of financial problems.
The report also noted that there are "significant gaps in data availability" for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The reports, the 2006 "National Healthcare Quality Report" and "National Healthcare Disparities Report," are available from <www.ahrq.gov>.