We conducted a prospective clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of an emergency department informational pamphlet in improving patients' compliance with recommendations that they receive Pap smears, mammograms, and a pneumococcal vaccination. Informational pamphlets were distributed to 1,000 consecutive patients who presented to a university-affiliated emergency department (ED). The pamphlet contained information stating the indications for obtaining routine Pap smears, mammograms, and a pneumococcal vaccination. Target individuals were women 18 years and older and men 65 years and older. Target patients were called approximately 2 months after their ED visits to obtain follow-up data. There were 464 target patients obtained from the 1,000 pamphlets distributed (409 female/55 male), and 68% (316) of the 464 were contacted by telephone for follow-up data. Significantly more women than men had read the pamphlet (62% vs. 8%). Of the women contacted (279), 31.9% (89) were not up to date (UTD) with Pap smears, and 11.2% (10) stated that they had scheduled an appointment for a Pap smear; 14.5% (11) of the women were not UTD with mammograms, and none had scheduled an appointment to receive care. Of the patients over age 65, 67% were not UTD with a pneumococcal vaccination, and no appointments were scheduled to obtain one. We conclude that a significant number of patients who present to this ED are in need of preventive health care. Emergency department informational pamphlets may have a role in improving Pap smear compliance. Women may be more likely then men to read informational pamphlets distributed in the ED.