Health screenings are medical and biometric tests given for detecting or ruling out the presence of diseases, conditions and general health risks. Examples of screenings include those for colon and breast cancer, high blood pressure and child developmental delays. Screenings often take place during annual wellness checks with health care providers.
Screening is an essential part of health promotion. There is a wide range of screening tools used by providers to determine a patient’s health status. The main difference between diagnostic tests and screening tests is that screening tests are given to a patient who does not feel ill to determine their current state of health (1). A diagnostic test is used to confirm, or diagnose, a specific health problem. Levels of health screening received by an individual varies by many factors such as their insurance status, income, geography and race.
Can screening identify disease?
Yes! For example, regular health care provider check-ups combined with proper health screenings — such as prostate or breast cancer screenings — have been shown to find cancer early and the lower the risk of dying from the disease (2).
The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care offers key questions to ask when determining appropriateness of screenings. Questions include:
• How likely am I to get the disease at my age?
• Would detecting the disease early benefit my health in the long term? For instance, is there any scientific proof that it might help me live longer?
• What adverse effects might be associated with the screening test, with possible tests following screening, and with the treatment? How common are they (1)?
Implications and Data for Jefferson County
Community Health Needs Assessment Focus Group Findings
Screening was never explicitly mentioned in focus group discussions. However, there were many concerns around access to care, such as the need for preventive care to help individuals stay healthy.
Community Health Needs Assessment Key Informant Interview Findings
Screening was not explicitly mentioned as a concern by key informants. It was brought up in the context of prevention and the need to move community health efforts upstream to mitigate the onset of pressing issues, such as mental illness, before health status deteriorates and requires more intense treatment and interventions.
Percent of adults (18+, unless otherwise noted below) who have received selected health care screenings, Jefferson County, Colorado, United States (2013-2014). The trend over time is shown as either increasing (percent being screened is going up), or decreasing (percent being screened is going down).
Community Resources within Jefferson County
1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (2016, December 27). Benefits and risks of screening tests. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072602/
2. National Cancer Institute (2018). Screening Tests. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/screening/screening-tests
Colorado BRFSS: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey: http://www.chd.dphe.state.co.us/cohid/
CDC BRFSS: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey: https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/data_tools.htm
National Health Interview Survey: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/index.htm
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Published on July 17, 2018
Updated on March 2, 2020