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JAMA Patient Page
April 26, 2016

The US Preventive Services Task Force

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2016;315(16):1804. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.2663

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), created in 1984, is a group of 16 national experts in preventive and evidence-based medicine.

Background of the Task Force

Preventive medicine focuses on preventing disease and disability before they happen rather than treating them afterward. Evidence-based medicine refers to the practice of medicine based on information (evidence) gathered from well-conducted research studies. The members of the USPSTF have expertise in the fields of internal medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, behavioral health, and nursing.

Purpose of the Task Force

The goal of the USPSTF is to improve the health of everyone in the United States by making specific evidence-based recommendations in preventive medicine. These recommendations can be about 3 types of services: screening tests, counseling services, and preventive medications. The recommendations apply only to people who are generally well and have no obvious signs or symptoms of the particular disease or condition that the preventive or screening service is meant to prevent. The recommendations are meant to serve as a guide for primary care clinicians and patients to decide whether a patient would benefit from a preventive service.

Process for Developing Recommendations

The USPSTF recommendations are developed using a very rigorous and systematic process and are based on the most current evidence from the scientific literature. The task force does not conduct its own research. Recommendations are updated every 5 years on an as-needed basis when important new evidence arises.

Components of a Recommendation

Each recommendation statement contains information about

  • Whether a preventive service is recommended

  • The specific population that the recommendation applies to (eg, women vs men, specific age groups)

  • The potential benefits and harms of providing the service

  • A letter grade that reflects both the strength of the evidence and the magnitude of the net benefit (A, B, C, D, or I)

Where Can the USPSTF Recommendations Be Found?

All USPSTF recommendations can be found on the USPSTF website and are also published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Recommendations From Other Groups

Other groups besides the USPSTF also make recommendations about preventive services. Often, the recommendations of the USPSTF and other groups are very similar, but occasionally they differ. All USPSTF recommendations include a section that discusses the recommendations of other groups.

As a patient, you and your doctor should discuss your individual health risks and values in deciding whether a preventive service is right for you.

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For More Information

To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA’s website at www.jama.com. Spanish translations are available in the supplemental content tab.

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
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Article Information

Source: US Preventive Services Task Force

Topic: Preventive Medicine