Douglas K. Owens named chair of USPSTF, the body of experts behind many health-care decisions

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Douglas K. Owens teaching a class, Analysis of Costs, Risks, and Benefits of Health Care.
Photo credit: 
Rod Searcey

Stanford Health Policy’s Douglas K. Owens was named chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Tasks Force, an independent panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that makes health-care recommendations to Congress and the American public.

Owens, the Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Professor at Stanford University and a general internist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, is also a professor of medicine, health research and policy, and management science and engineering at Stanford. He is the director of the Center for Health Policy in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he is also a senior fellow, and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research in the Department of Medicine.

“The goal of the Task Force is to help people live longer and healthier lives,” said Owens. “We aim to bring the best science about prevention to our guideline recommendations on more than 70 preventive services, including screening, behavioral counseling and preventive medications."

Owens noted that the Task Force guidelines — unbiased, independent assessments of the benefits and harms of preventive services — impact virtually every primary care patient in the country. From statins, mammograms and cervical cancer screening, to depression, HIV screening or cardiovascular disease, the 16 volunteer members of the Task Force weigh all the medical evidence to determine the safest course of action from adolescence to old age.

A guideline this January about perinatal depression, for example, was highlighted in this New York Times article. Depression hits one-in-seven women during and after giving birth, prompting the Task Force to recommend that clinicians refer at-risk women to counseling, specifically cognitive behavioral or interpersonal therapy.

 

 

“I am delighted to congratulate Dr. Owens on his appointment as chair of the Task Force,” said Susan J. Curry, a distinguished professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa. “Over the years, he has brought invaluable expertise in evidence synthesis, clinical decision-making and modeling — all critical to the methods we use to develop evidence-based recommendations.”

Some other recent recommendations by the Task Force include that men aged 55 to 69 talk to their doctors about prostate cancer screenings; patients at high risk of HIVshould take a daily preventive drug; and that adults aged 50 to 75 be screened for colon cancer

Each year, the Task Force makes a report to Congressthat identifies critical evidence gaps in research related to clinical prevention services. It recommends priority areas that deserve further explanations, all of which are made public on the Task Force website for public comment.