National trends in the use of preventive health care by women

Am J Public Health. 1989 Jan;79(1):21-6. doi: 10.2105/ajph.79.1.21.


This study investigates national changes between 1973-74 and 1985 in women's use of three preventive health services based on data from the National Health Interview Survey. Smoothed proportions of women with recent preventive care were estimated using weighted least squares for subgroups categorized by age (20-39, 40-59, 60-79), race (White, Black), income (poor, nonpoor), and year of interview. Older women and Black women experienced the largest increases in recent use of clinical breast examinations and Pap tests. Between 1973 and 1985 changes in recent breast examination ranged from zero for White women ages 20-39 years to a 23 percentage point increase (95% CI = 17,30) for Black women ages 60-79 years. A similar pattern was found for Pap testing. Changes between 1974 and 1985 in recent blood pressure testing ranged from zero for women ages 20-39 years to an 8 percentage point increase (95% CI = 6, 10) for women ages 60-79 years. Despite the increases among older women, in 1985 recent use of breast exams and Pap tests remained lower among older women. Further, the poor remained less likely than the nonpoor to have recent preventive care (except blood pressure testing among older women). Most women without recent cancer screening tests had a recent physician contact, highlighting the need for greater emphasis on cancer prevention by health care providers.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Blood Pressure Determination
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Preventive Health Services / trends*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Uterine Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health Services / trends*