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New publications now available from AHRQ

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently published the following three reports, which are now available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Programs and Tools to Improve the Quality of Mental Health Services: Research in Action No. 16. Kass-Bartelmes, B.L., and Rutherford, M.K. AHRQ Publication No. 04-0061.

AHRQ has a broad portfolio of mental health research. This report describes AHRQ-funded research that has led to the development of programs, methods, and tools for evaluating and improving the quality of mental health services and improving the education of mental health professionals. Selected examples of these efforts include the Partners in Care quality improvement program, which increases treatment for depression and improves outcomes. Two toolkits were developed to improve treatment of schizophrenia. A short questionnaire was developed that emergency room personnel can use to screen adolescents at risk for suicide. In addition, a systematic approach to evaluating expanded school mental health programs has been used to show that school mental health programs can be more cost effective than programs in the community or private sectors. The need for quality assessment led to the development of consumer ratings assessments to promote quality improvement programs at managed behavioral care organizations. In the area of professional education, researchers have identified solutions that can improve education and training for mental health care professionals.

Health Care in Urban and Rural Areas, 1998-2000: MEPS Chartbook No. 13. Larson, S.L., Machlin, S.R., Nixon, A., and others. AHRQ Publication No. 04-0050.

This report presents Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data on health care in urban and rural areas for the period 1998-2000. U.S. counties were classified into four groups along the urban-rural continuum from metropolitan statistical areas to rural areas. The chartbook examines differences in health care access, use, and expenses. The percent of people under 65 who were uninsured was not significantly different in rural counties than in the others, but uninsured residents of rural counties were only about half as likely as their urban counterparts to lack a usual source of care. Among people with ambulatory expenses in both age groups (younger than 65 and 65 and older), residents of rural counties had the fewest ambulatory visits per year. The difference was especially large for the elderly, among whom rural residents had only half as many yearly visits as urban residents. Among elderly people with ambulatory expenses, residents of rural counties had the lowest average annual expenses. The likelihood of having dental expenses generally declines with increasing rurality.

Restricted-Activity Days in the United States, 1997 and 2001: MEPS Research Findings No. 22. Rhoades, J. AHRQ Publication No. 04-0060.

This report provides estimates of restricted-activity days for the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States using data from the 1997 and 2001 MEPS. Estimates were examined by age, race/ethnicity, sex, marital status, health insurance coverage, education, income and health status, and area of residence. Estimates from 1997 and 2001 were compared to determine the relationship between restricted-activity days and selected population characteristics. From 1997 to 2001, there was a decline in the proportion of the population (ages 16-64) with workdays lost due to physical illness, injury, or a mental or emotional problem. Women were more likely to have workdays lost. In 2001, 46.5 percent of women and 34.6 percent of men had workdays lost due to physical illness, injury, or a mental or emotional problem. In both years, women and married people were more likely to miss workdays to care for a family member with a health problem. In 2001, 24.8 percent of married people but only 13.1 percent of unmarried people missed work to care for a family member. However, in both years, married and unmarried people lost about the same number of workdays to care for a family member, 4 to 5 days annually. Compared with blacks and Hispanics, whites and people in the "others" category were the most likely to have workdays and schooldays lost in 1997 and 2001.

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