Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) offered updated recommendations for cervical cancer screening, which were published in JAMA. Diane M. Harper, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., professor of family medicine and former member of the Task Force, played a key role in developing the 2018 update to the USPSTF's recommendations. Harper is internationally recognized for her work in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated diseases, which include many types of cancer. Her health services research and policy work have focused on guideline development and publication, particularly around cancer screening. She was interviewed by the University of Michigan's Institute for Health Policy and Innovation (IHPI) in December. In the interview, Harper interprets the USPSTF's updated recommendations, discusses the FDA's recent approval of expanded use of the HPV vaccine Gardasil9 (Merck), and explains how evidence-based research informs and pushes new health policy considerations over time.
From the interview with Diane Harper:
We can’t make guidelines about anything if the data and research evidence are not there to support it, so we have to have good level of evidence behind the recommendations we make, which requires going deep into what the data really show. It’s incredibly important to realize what our gaps in knowledge are, to understand the limitations of available evidence, and to determine priorities for additional research.
With time, the science changes, disease prevalence changes, treatments change, people’s perceptions change, interpretations of policy change, and this requires us to continually reevaluate the evidence behind decisions and recommendations. The only constant in health policy is that nothing is ever really finished, and everything requires frequent revisiting!
To read the full interview, visit the Institute for Health Policy and Innovation (IHPI) page.