USPSTF and Public Engagement
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The USPSTF works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications. These recommendations apply only to people who have no signs or symptoms of the specific disease or condition that the screening, counseling, or preventive medication targets. Recommendations address only services offered in the primary care setting or services referred by a primary care clinician.
The Task Force is committed to making its recommendations clearer and its work as transparent as possible. As part of this commitment, the Task Force provides several opportunities for the public to provide input.
Task Force Member Nomination
Each year, the Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) appoints new Task Force members to serve 4-year terms and replace those who are completing their service. Anyone can nominate an individual for consideration on the Task Force Member Nomination page of the AHRQ Web site. Nominations are welcomed at any time during the year, but they must be received by mid-May to be considered for appointment the following year.
The USPSTF considers a broad range of clinical preventive services for its recommendations, focusing on screenings, counseling, and preventive medications. Anyone can nominate a new topic or an update to an existing topic at any time by visiting the Topic Nomination page of the Task Force Web site.
Recommendation Development Process
Once a topic is selected, the Task Force follows a multistep process when developing each of its recommendations. In an effort to make the USPSTF and its processes more transparent, the Task Force solicits public comments during each stage of the process:
- Draft Research Plans: Draft Research Plans guide the recommendation process and include key questions to be answered and target populations to be considered in the evidence review. (The Task Force began inviting public comment on all its draft Research Plans in December 2011.)
- Draft Recommendation Statements and Draft Evidence Reviews: Draft Evidence Reviews summarize the available evidence on the topic. Draft Recommendation Statements are developed based on the evidence and a discussion of the balance of benefits and harms of the service. (The Task Force began inviting public comment on its draft Recommendation Statements in July 2010 and draft Evidence Reviews in March 2013.)
Each draft document is open for public comment for 4 weeks. Anyone can comment on these materials by visiting the Opportunities for Public Comment page of the USPSTF Web site. After that time, the Task Force reviews all comments and considers them while making any necessary revisions to the final documents. All final documents include a section summarizing any changes that were made as a result of public comments.
The Task Force looks to the public during the final recommendation stage to share its recommendations with others. To assist with understanding of its recommendations, the Task Force develops a plain language consumer guide and news bulletin for each recommendation. Individuals can also visit Healthfinder.gov to determine which preventive services they may need based on age, sex, and health status.
Internet Citation: USPSTF and Public Engagement. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. April 2017.