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In a draft recommendation statement, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF or Task Force) found that the current evidence is inadequate to recommend screening for vitamin D deficiency in asymptomatic adults. The findings are based on a systematic review of 46 studies that assessed various doses, frequency, and duration of treatment with vitamin D to examine the benefits and harms of treatment. The evidence suggests that vitamin D treatment, with or without calcium, had no effect on most health outcomes; for some outcomes, the evidence was limited. Treatment was also found to have no impact on mortality; fractures; incidences of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer; or depression among community-dwelling populations. Evidence was inconclusive for the effect of treatment on falls. Active treatment and control groups had a similar incidence of total adverse events, serious adverse events, and other harms.
The draft recommendation is now posted for public comment, and after reviewing the comments, the Task Force will deliver a final ruling. When final, this recommendation will replace the 2014 USPSTF recommendation statement, which also concluded that evidence was insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening vitamin D deficiency in asymptomatic adults.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for bone health and may play a role in other aspects of health as well. Individuals typically receive vitamin D through certain foods, supplements, and sun exposure. It is important to note that since ideal vitamin D levels can vary from person to person, more information is needed to develop a consensus regarding the precise levels of vitamin D required for optimal health. This consensus may impact the assessment of vitamin D screenings.
Screenings For Employers
Most employers do not offer vitamin D screenings, so the content of this post may seem out of place. However, it is important for employers to be aware of the guidance the USPSTF offers because many of them have non-recommended services as part of their employee wellness programs. For example, many employers encourage all employees to receive an annual physical or biometric screening despite this procedure not being a recommended service by the USPSTF for asymptomatic adults of a certain age. Some employers encourage other preventive screenings and procedures that are also not recommended. These result in poor employee wellness programs that do not achieve the results employers are seeking.
The Task Force does not consider the costs of a preventive service when determining a recommendation grade. This means that preventive screenings like annual physicals or biometric screenings are not seen as valuable even when costs are not taken into consideration. When employers, who view their wellness program as an investment, evaluate the value of their programs, the case for non-recommended services becomes even weaker, further bolstering the argument that employers need to quit offering these types of services.
The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force 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.