Bmj Usa: Clinical Review

First new screening recommendations from the third US Preventive Services Task Force

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E21
  1. David Atkins, coordinator for clinical preventive services
  1. Center for Practice and Technology Assessment, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD 20852, USA
  1. Correspondence to: David Atkins, Center for Practice and Technology Assessment, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 6010 Executive Blvd, Suite 300, Rockville, MD 20852, USA


    This article originally appeared in BMJ USA

    The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an independent panel first convened in 1984 by the US Department of Health and Human Services to develop evidence-based recommendations for clinicians about preventive health care. The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, released in 19891 and completely revised in 1996,2 assessed more than 200 common screening tests, counseling interventions, immunization strategies, and medications for prevention of disease. The primary audience for USPSTF recommendations continues to be clinicians in primary care settings, but many professional societies, health plans and insurers, quality organizations, and policy makers have come to rely on the USPSTF for rigorous and objective guidance about which preventive services should be routinely incorporated into clinical practice.3

    The third USPSTF was convened in late 1998 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). A priority-setting process, which included review by staff and input from outside experts and organizations, found that more than 50 of the 70 chapters in the 1996 Guide were in need of substantial updating; it also identified a number of high-priority new topics. The first new and revised recommendations from the USPSTF resulting from this work, along with summaries of the supporting evidence, have just been released in a special supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine4 and on AHRQ's web site (


    Detailed descriptions of the methods by which the USPSTF develops its recommendations are available on the USPSTF web site and in the recent supplement.5 A number of specific features distinguish the USPSTF recommendations from those of many other organizations. The USPSTF uses an explicit process to define key questions and specify the necessary evidence to establish that a given service is effective. Research teams at two evidence-based practice centers supported by …

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