As a centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the focus on preventive services is a profound shift from a reactive system that primarily responds to acute problems and urgent needs to one that helps foster optimal health and well-being. The ACA addresses preventive services for both men and women of all ages, and women in particular stand to benefit from additional preventive health services. The inclusion of evidence-based screenings, counseling and procedures that address women’s greater need for services over the course of a lifetime may have a profound impact for individuals and the nation as a whole.
Given the magnitude of change, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged the IOM with reviewing what preventive services are important to women’s health and well-being and then recommending which of these should be considered in the development of comprehensive guidelines. The IOM defined preventive health services as measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition. The IOM recommends that women’s preventive services include:
- improved screening for cervical cancer, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, and counseling and screening for HIV;
- a fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods, and services so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies and space their pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes;
- services for pregnant women including screening for gestational diabetes and lactation counseling and equipment to help women who choose to breastfeed do so successfully;
- at least one well-woman preventive care visit annually for women to receive comprehensive services; and
- screening and counseling for all women and adolescent girls for interpersonal and domestic violence in a culturally sensitive and supportive manner.