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AHCPR announces new topics for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research has announced the initial list of topics that will be evaluated over the coming year by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). It includes four new screening tests and/or preventive measures that have not been reviewed previously by the USPSTF in the two earlier editions of the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services. It also includes eight topics that the Task Force is revisiting because of newly available information on their effectiveness, new technologies, or continuing controversy.

The USPSTF, an independent panel of preventive health experts, was first convened in 1984 by the U.S. Public Health Service. It is charged with evaluating the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of a range of clinical preventive services, including common screening tests, immunizations, and counseling for health behavior change and to produce age- and risk-factor-specific recommendations for these services. The Task Force published its first set of recommendations in the 1989 Guide to Clinical Preventive Services; the Guide was revised in 1995. The third USPSTF was convened in November 1998.

These initial 12 topics were selected by the Task Force members based on preliminary work by AHCPR's two clinical prevention centers: the Research Triangle Institute and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). The selection process included a preliminary literature search of new information on prevention and screening published since 1995; consultation with professional societies, health care organizations, and outside prevention experts; a review of current levels of controversy and variation in practice; and consideration of the potential for a change from current USPSTF recommendations. Additional topics for new assessments and updates will be selected and announced periodically over the next 2 years. The new topics are:

  • Chemoprophylaxis (for example, tamoxifen and related drugs) to prevent breast cancer.
  • Vitamin supplementation to prevent cancer or coronary heart disease (vitamin E, folate, beta carotene, and vitamin C).
  • Screening for bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy.
  • Developmental screening in children.

The topics to be updated are:

  • Screening for diabetes mellitus.
  • Newborn hearing screening.
  • Screening for skin cancer.
  • Counseling to prevent unintended pregnancy.
  • Screening for high cholesterol.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy.
  • Screening for chlamydial infection.
  • Screening for depression.

Nominations of new topics for consideration by the USPSTF may be sent to:

David Atkins, M.D., M.P.H.,
Coordinator for Clinical Preventive Services,
Center for Practice and Technology Assessment,
Agency for Health Care Policy and Research,
540 Gaither Road, Suite 6000
Rockville, MD 20850

Priority will be given to preventive interventions that can be delivered in the primary care setting, are widely available, and for which scientific evidence exists to assess efficacy and effectiveness.

All the topics selected for evaluation by the USPSTF will be subject to rigorous analysis and research with a goal of translating the best available science into the best medical practice. To speed implementation of new and updated USPSTF recommendations, individual reports will be released as they are completed.

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