Prevention Policy Matters Blog

The Prevention Policy Matters Blog helps translate public health policy into practice, offering innovative ways to make national guidelines work in communities across the nation. Discover insights and practical tips from experts across all of ODPHP’s divisions, as well as compelling stories from other professionals.

The importance of seasonal influenza vaccine for health care workers and high risk groups has been well documented, yet health care worker (HCW) influenza vaccination rates have risen only minimally over the past 20 years and are far short of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 goals whose target is a 90 percent vaccination rate. One of the fundamental tenets of health care is to care for patients while protecting ourselves from harm. Because HCWs work in an environment where frequent contact with infectious patients is routine, we are at risk for exposure to influenza with possible transmission to other patients, their families, and other HCWs. The situation calls for a review of attitudes and beliefs toward influenza vaccination with a focus on the successful strategies associated with increased HCW vaccination rates.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and this year’s theme is Charting the Course Together. The focus is on using data to connect breastfeeding to a range of other health topics. An important health topic is the role that breastfeeding plays in infant and child health outcomes. Systematic reviews that highlight some of these key outcomes will be available in 2018.
High school graduation is an important predictor for overall health outcomes. High school graduates have less chance of being in prison, greater financial stability as adults, and fewer health problems. In the United States, public high school graduation rates are rising. According to a 2017 National Center for Education Statistics report, the number of students who entered 9th grade and graduated with a regular diploma after 4 years increased from 79% in 2010–2011 to 83% in 2014–2015.
Today’s consumers recognize healthy eating as an important lifestyle behavior. In fact, 75 percent of consumers know it’s important to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle and over three-fourths recognize that consuming healthy, nutritious foods are important factors in maintaining that lifestyle. At the American Heart Association (AHA) we are making healthy changes a priority in our workplace, where many adults spend much of their day. AHA’s path to 100% healthy has helped cultivate social norms and encourage employees’ healthy habits, while exceeding financial expectations.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently released a new draft recommendation for prostate cancer screening. The draft recommendation encourages providers to inform men ages 55 to 69 about the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening. That way, patients can work with their providers to make a decision about screening that’s right for them.
Exposure to secondhand smoke causes significant health problems in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke harms both children and adults — and the only way to completely protect people who don’t smoke is to eliminate smoking in all homes, work environments, and public places.
The ONC Patient Engagement (PE) Playbook was created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to help healthcare professionals use health information technology (health IT) to provide better care to patients. The PE Playbook focuses specifically on electronic health record (EHR) patient portals, which allow both patients and healthcare teams, concurrent with patients’ privacy preferences, to easily access patient health information — which may lead to increased benefits for healthcare, such as improved health outcomes and lower costs.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) plays a role unlike any other in the Nation’s health care system. This independent body of volunteer medical experts helps clinicians evaluate and apply preventive health care services for patients with no recognized signs or symptoms of disease. Their recommendations aim to help primary care clinicians and patients decide together whether a preventive service is right for a patient's needs.
More people in the United States have access to health care today than in 2010. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the percentage of uninsured people among all age groups decreased from 16% in 2010 to 9% in 2016. During the same time period, the percentage of people among all age groups who had a usual place to go for medical care increased from 85.4% to 88.1%. People without insurance are less likely to receive care and more likely to have poor health, while people with a usual place to go for care have better health outcomes and lower health care costs. 
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends lung cancer screening for older adults who are current or former heavy smokers and would be willing to have surgery if cancer were found. Screening can save lives, but is not risk free. In addition to exposure of radiation, 35.6% of those screened will have a false alarm and 1.8 percent will have a needless invasive procedure (e.g., a biopsy). As a primary care physician, you’ll want to help your patients make what may be a tough decision.