Seniors Not Getting Important Preventive Health Services

TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) — Many Americans aged 65 and older are not receiving potentially lifesaving preventive health services, says a new report by several U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies.

Too few seniors are getting recommended vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcal disease, including bloodstream infections, meningitis and pneumonia; help with quitting smoking; or screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol and osteoporosis, according to the report released March 14.

“Millions of Americans are not getting proven clinical preventive services that we know can prevent disease and improve quality of life,” study author Lynda Anderson, director of the Healthy Aging Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a CDC news release.

“This report takes stock of current levels of recommended services by older adults, and it becomes obvious that many of these services are woefully underutilized,” she added.

Each day, about 10,000 Americans turn 65. By 2030, about one in five Americans will be 65 or older. The authors said their report highlights the need to promote preventive services for older people, especially among minorities.

Among the findings:

  • More than 50 percent of Hispanics aged 65 and older said they had never received a pneumococcal vaccination, along with 47 percent of blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 36 percent of whites.
  • About 49 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders and 47 percent of Hispanics said they had not been screened for colorectal cancer, compared with 34 percent of whites.

Many older adults may not be aware of the preventive services recommended for their age group or may not know that the services are covered by Medicare, the report suggested.

“We know prevention is critical to healthy living and independence,” Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at Health and Human Services, said in the news release. “It is important that we continue our efforts at the community level to reach all older Americans. We want to ensure that they are aware of the preventive benefits which are available to them, including those made possible by the Affordable Care Act.”

The report lists a number of ways to increase the use of preventive services in underserved communities, including increasing awareness through media and providing services in convenient community settings, such as providing flu shots at polling stations on election days.

“If we can help patients age 65 and older get the recommended preventive screenings and regular immunizations, we could significantly reduce unnecessary illness,” Dr. Edward Langston, an American Medical Association board member, said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about healthy aging.