U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Preventive Care

Preventive health care, including counseling, education, and screening can help prevent or minimize the effects of many serious health conditions. In 2006, females of all ages made 533 million physician office visits. Of these visits, 21.5 percent were for preventive care, including prenatal care, health screening, and insurance examinations (data not shown).1

Routine Pap smears, which detect the early signs of cervical cancer, are recommended at least every 3 years beginning within 3 years of initiation of sexual activity, or by age 21.2 In 2006, 6.6 percent of physician office visits made by women aged 18 and older included a Pap smear. This rate was higher among younger women and decreased with age, most likely due to higher rates of physician office visits among older women for non-preventive care. Among women aged 18–24 years, 10.5 percent of physician visits included a Pap smear, compared to 7.0 percent of visits made by women aged 45–64 years and 2.0 percent of visits among those aged 65 years and older.

Among women aged 40 and older, 4.7 percent of physician visits included a mammogram, which is recommended every 1–2 years to screen for breast cancer among this age group.2 The rate of office visits including a mammogram was highest among the younger age groups. Among women aged 40–49 years, 6.2 percent of visits included a mammogram, compared to 3.0 percent of visits made by women aged 70 years and older.

High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. The Healthy People 2010 goal is to increase the percentage of adults aged 20 and over who receive a cholesterol screening at least every 5 years to 80 percent.3 In 2005–2006, 72.1 percent of women aged 20 years and older had received a cholesterol test within the previous 5 years. Non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black women were more likely to have had the test (75.7 and 71.3 percent, respectively), compared to Hispanic women and non-Hispanic women of other races (53.5 and 64.7 percent, respectively).

1 Cherry DK, Hing E, Woodwell DA, Rechtsteiner EA. National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2006 summary. National health statistics reports; no 3. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/ahcd/adata.htm, accessed 02/23/09.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Recommendations. [online] http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm#Recommendations, accessed 03/30/09.
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. With Understanding and Improving Health and Objectives for Improving Health. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 2000. http://www.healthypeople.gov/Document/tableofcontents.htm#volume1, accessed 02/23/09.

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