It might sound funny, but one of the reasons I took a liking to my primary care provider is that he asked me how often I wear a seatbelt.
"Not very often," I said. "Only when I'm in a car."
I found his question somewhat humorous because no physician I had in the past ever brought it up--although it is very much an appropriate topic for a healthcare provider to have with his patient.
Just think if primary care physicians and pediatricians routinely asked this question throughout the 1970s and 80s, back when most drivers ignored the restraints in their cars and child safety seats were not mandatory. (A quick fact on this: In 1983, only 14 percent of Americans used seat belts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)
It makes me wonder how many lives might have been saved by this simple act of physicians surveying their patients and providing some basic health education.
A study released this week claims that increasing the use of five preventive services would save more than 100,000 lives every year in the U.S. None of these services has anything to do with auto safety, but some of these changes are nearly as simple as fastening a seatbelt.
Eduardo Sanchez, MD, says a lot of Americans--especially racial and ethnic minorities--are not getting the preventive services they need. Sanchez is the chair of the National Commission on Prevention Priorities, which guided the new report by Partnership for Prevention. Among the top findings of the report, Preventive Care: A National Profile on Use, Disparities, and Health Benefits:
- 45,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of adults who take aspirin daily to prevent heart disease. Today, fewer than half of American adults take aspirin preventively.
- 42,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of smokers who are advised by a health professional to quit and are offered medication or other assistance. Today, only 28 percent of smokers receive such services.
- 14,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of adults age 50 and older who are up to date with any recommended screening for colorectal cancer. Today, fewer than 50 percent of adults are up to date with screening.
- 12,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of adults age 50 and older immunized against flu annually. Today, 37 percent of adults have had an annual flu vaccination.
- 3,700 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of women age 40 and older who have been screened for breast cancer in the past 2 years. Today, 67 percent of women have been screened in the past 2 years.
Rick Johnson is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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