Panel Recommends Routine Adult Screening for Depression

Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that primary care doctors should screen their adult patients for depression.

The USPSTF is composed of government-sponsored experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine who help shape best health practices. The panel said screening would be adequate via the nine-question Patient Health Questionnaire.

A story on Reuters.com reviewed the evidence the panel studied, and noted that about 7 in 100 people in the U.S. meet criteria for a depressive disorder.

Dr. Renée Binder, president of the American Psychiatric Association, welcomed the recommendation. She told Reuters, “The majority of people are not depressed, but some people are – especially in the postpartum period.”

Postpartum depression (PPD), according to the American Psychological Association, is characterized by a prolonged period of emotional disturbance after a mother gives birth. An estimated 9 to 16 in 100 new mothers have PPD, which can have significant consequences for the woman and her family.

Treatment for depression can include medication, psychotherapy or both.

According to Myrna Weissman of Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, it’s important that doctors who screen for depression have time to treat and manage people who need it.

“Depression screening should be routine the way you screen for hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes as part of a routine clinic visit, but there has to be time to deal with a positive response,” Weissman told Reuters. “That includes time to sort out what brought it on and the severity.”

As Reuters explained, the proposal is a grade B recommendation, indicating at least a moderate certainty the benefit will be moderate to substantial. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), grade A and B recommendations from the USPSTF are covered without cost to the patients.

The USPSTF’s proposal is open for public comment until Aug. 24. You can weigh in here.

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