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News and Notes   |    
News Briefs
Psychiatric Services 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.20120p620
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Copyright © 2012 by the American Psychiatric Association.

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AHRQ disparities report highlights health care challenges: The National Healthcare Disparities Report, 2011 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) shows that access to health care was not improving for most racial and ethnic groups in 2002 through 2008. The congressionally mandated report, which AHRQ has produced annually since 2003, shows the persistent challenges: 50% of the measures that tracked disparities in access showed no improvement between 2002 and 2008, and 40% of those measures indicated worsening access. Specifically, Latinos as well as American Indians and Alaska Natives experienced worse access to care than whites on more than 60% of the access measures, African Americans on slightly more than 30%, and Asian Americans on 17%. In tandem with the report on disparities, AHRQ released the National Healthcare Quality Report, 2011, which tracks the health care system through quality measures. The quality report found that overall health care quality improved slowly for the general population between the years 2002 and 2008. Both reports will serve to track progress on the Affordable Care Act in the future.The reports are available on the AHRQ Web site at www.ahrq.gov.

Poll shows many seniors not getting mental health interventions: Large majorities of older Americans experience significant gaps in their health care, according to a new national survey, “How Does It Feel? The Older Adult Health Care Experience,” released by the John A. Hartford Foundation. The poll focused exclusively on Americans age 65 and older and assessed whether in the past 12 months patients had received key medical services to support healthy aging, including an annual medication review, a falls risk assessment and history, depression screening, referral to community-based health resources, and discussion of their ability to perform routine daily tasks and activities without help—all critical elements of a standard geriatric assessment. This type of low-cost geriatric care can manage and lower risk of many preventable health problems. Yet only 7% of older adults surveyed received all recommended services, 52% reported receiving none or only one, and 76% received fewer than half. For example, when asked whether a health care provider had asked about “your mood, such as whether you are sad, anxious, or depressed,” 62% said no. In addition, more than two-thirds had not heard of Medicare's annual wellness visit, which is available free to seniors and pays doctors nearly three times as much as an average office visit. This poll result may be overstated because Medicare's records suggest that uptake is only 6.5%. The poll, which was conducted for the first time earlier this year, surveyed 1,028 Americans age 65 and older and has a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points. More information on the results is available at www.jhartfound.org/learning-center/hartford-poll-2012.

Evidence lacking on effectiveness of antipsychotics for children: Little research exists that directly compares the effectiveness or safety of first- and second-generation antipsychotics for psychiatric and behavioral conditions among children, adolescents, and young adults, a recent AHRQ review finds. Mental health problems affect one in five young people at any given time, and use of antipsychotics for children and adolescents has increased during the past 20 years. First- and second-generation antipsychotics have generally been found to be superior to placebo on symptom improvement and other efficacy outcomes. Future high-quality, head-to-head comparisons are needed to determine the relative effectiveness and safety of various antipsychotics for younger people, the report notes. The nearly 400-page research review includes a paper for researchers and research funders to help improve the comparative effectiveness evidence. The review is available at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/ehc/products/147/835/CER39_Antipsychotics-Children-Young-Adults_20120221.pdf.

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