By Dr. Chris Tonozzi, MD, Director of Data Quality
Health fairs are almost as American as apple pie and baseball, and the idea that there is a large sector of our population getting access to low-cost, preventive services each spring is a laudable goal. But as with most things, the devil is in the details. We need to consider whether we are providing the right services at our health fairs.
One of the great advances of medicine in our lifetimes is that we introduced the idea of evidence-based medicine, or EBM. If a medical provider is practicing EBM, it suggests that he or she is using scientific studies to guide medical care. Studies may compare different medicines to treat a disease, they may compare a medicine to a placebo, or they may look at whether a preventive service (like a mammogram or colon cancer screening test) does more good than harm. One of the best sources of EBM recommendations for preventive services (like the ones offered at health fairs), are those of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Keep in mind that these are preventive recommendations so they are for screening, which is distinct from management of diseases.
Let’s look at the services often offered at health fairs, with the recommendation from the USPSTF. We’ll consider the case of a 60-year-old woman:
There are services not usually listed on a health fair menu which would be recommended for a healthy 60-year-old female. Those include:
It’s encouraged that, as a patient, you investigate the evidence for medical care that you receive. There’s particularly good evidence available for preventive health services. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is a good place to start that investigation. By using evidence-based medicine you’ll increase the chances of staying healthy, by both using recommended screenings and by avoiding unnecessary screenings.