White House Releases First Aging Policy Brief

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) has released the first in a series of policy briefs leading up to the 2015 Conference. The Healthy Aging policy brief considers how Americans can maximize their physical, mental, and social well-being. The brief addresses the promotion of health and prevention of disease and injury, optimization of cognitive health, optimization of behavioral health, maximization of independence in homes and communities, and the promotion of community and civic engagement. Additional briefs examining other key topics for the Conference will be released in the coming weeks. WHCOA has invited public comments on the briefs. They will use the responses received to help shape their ongoing work on this year’s conference.

Senate Lawmakers Ask for Funding to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and 14 other Democratic and Independent senators have signed a letter urging Senate appropriators to increase funding for prescription drug and opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and research programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the coming fiscal year. “Drug overdoes deaths have skyrocketed in the past decade, largely because of prescription opioids, and they have become the leading cause of injury death in the U.S.,” the senators wrote. “It is critical that we make a strong commitment to strengthen our nation’s efforts to combat this epidemic.” The letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education requested increased funding to support surveillance and monitoring at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prevention, treatment, and overdose reversal at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and alternative treatment research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

$4 Billion Spent on Poor Results from Breast Cancer Screenings

$4 billion is spent annually on false-positive mammograms and diagnoses of breast cancer that will never cause symptoms or death, according to a new study published by Health Affairs last week. $2.8 billion is spent on follow-up care associated with false-positive test results, and $1.2 billion is spent on overdiagnosis or treating growths that are unlikely to cause harm to patients. The cost per patient ranges from $852 to $12,369 depending on the misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis. The authors of the research conclude that a more personalized approach to determining a person’s breast cancer screening schedule is necessary. The schedule should be based on risk factors other than age, including genetic predisposition, obesity, and family history. The study’s findings will likely be considered as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) prepares to release its next set of draft mammography recommendations in the coming months. USPSTF came under controversy in 2009 when the Task Force reversed its previous stance in support of annual mammography screening for women aged 40 to 49 and recommended against routine screenings for women in this age bracket.

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