Preventative health screening rates have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels

Preventative health screening rates have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels

February 7, 2024

2 min read


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Key points:

  • Adults in Asia have seen the largest declines in health visits and preventive screenings.
  • Researchers note that the slow resumption of doctor visits and screenings may exacerbate health care disparities.

A recent study shows that rates of health visits and preventive health screenings remain below pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, particularly among different groups.

“Clinicians, health system leaders and policymakers are concerned that continued disruptions in access to care and preventive health screenings could have long-term public health consequences,” Christopher Alba, BS, A medical student at Harvard Medical School and colleagues JAMA Health Forum. “However, little is known about whether health care services (e.g., usual place of care, health visits) will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.”

female patient clinic
Researchers note that the slow resumption of doctor visits and screenings may exacerbate health care disparities. Image source: Adobe Stock

In a cross-sectional analysis, researchers surveyed 89,130 ​​adults who participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 2021 and 2022.

They found that fewer participants had an outpatient health visit in the past year in 2022 compared with 2019 (adjusted rate [RR] = 0.98; 95% CI, 0.97-0.99), with the greatest decline seen among Asian adults compared with white adults (aRR = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.92-0.98).

Also, preventive screening for blood pressure (aRR = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.94-0.96), blood glucose (aRR = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.93-0.96), and cholesterol (aRR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.92-0.92) The detection rate (0.94) in 2021 is lower than that in 2019.

Adults are less likely to be screened for several cancers in 2021 than in 2019, including:

  • colorectal cancer screening (aRR = 0.88; 95% CI, 0.81-0.94);
  • cervical cancer screening (aRR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.83-0.89);
  • breast cancer screening (aRR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.9-0.97); and
  • Prostate cancer screening (aRR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.78-0.94).

Alba and colleagues noted that while Asian adults had the largest declines in many preventive screenings, black and Hispanic adults had lower rates of decline in colorectal cancer screening (aRR = 0.78; 95% CI, 0.67-0.91) and breast cancer The greatest decrease was seen in screening (aRR = 0.83). ;95% CI, 0.75-0.91).

“Given that we found that minority populations received the least preventive screening in 2019, slower recovery from these service disruptions during the pandemic may exacerbate health care disparities in future years,” they wrote.

The researchers also highlighted some possible reasons for the continued decline in preventive screenings and health visits.

“First, fear of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens may continue to prevent people from attending in-person health visits until 2022,” they wrote. “Second, delayed care during the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency This may result in increased demand for health visits and thus reduced availability.”

The study was limited by NHIS response rates, which ranged from 50% to 60% in both years.

Ultimately, the findings “highlight the urgent need for health systems, public health, and health policy coordination to increase preventive screening among eligible U.S. adults,” Alba and colleagues concluded.

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