Putting Evidence Into Practice: An Update on the US Preventive Services Task Force Methods for Developing Recommendations for Preventive Services

Ann Fam Med. 2023 Mar-Apr;21(2):165-171. doi: 10.1370/afm.2946.


Purpose: The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an independent body that makes evidence-based recommendations regarding preventive services to improve health for people nationwide. Here, we summarize current USPSTF methods, describe how methods are evolving to address preventive health equity, and define evidence gaps for future research.

Methods: We summarize current USPSTF methods as well as ongoing methods development.

Results: The USPSTF prioritizes topics on the basis of disease burden, extent of new evidence, and whether the service can be provided in primary care and going forward will increasingly consider health equity. Analytic frameworks specify the key questions and linkages connecting the preventive service to health outcomes. Contextual questions provide information on natural history, current practice, health outcomes in high-risk groups, and health equity. The USPSTF assigns a level of certainty to the estimate of net benefit of a preventive service (high, moderate, or low). The magnitude of net benefit is also judged (substantial, moderate, small, or zero/negative). The USPSTF uses these assessments to assign a letter grade from A (recommend) to D (recommend against). I statements are issued when evidence is insufficient.

Conclusions: The USPSTF will continue to evolve its methods for simulation modeling and to use evidence to address conditions for which there are limited data for population groups who bear a disproportionate burden of disease. Additional pilot work is underway to better understand the relations of the social constructs of race, ethnicity, and gender with health outcomes to inform the development of a USPSTF health equity framework.

Keywords: clinical practice guidelines; health equity; methodology; preventive medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Advisory Committees
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Forecasting
  • Health Equity*
  • Humans
  • Preventive Health Services
  • United States