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Health Plan Study Shows Cholesterol Test Gender Gap

Eliminating gender inequalities in testing could save thousands of lives

TUESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Women in the United States are less likely than men to be tested for cholesterol or have other preventive measures for cardiovascular disease, even if they are diabetic or have had a recent cardiovascular procedure, according to an analysis of nearly 200 Medicare and commercial managed care plans published in the May/June issue of Women's Health Issues.

Sarah Hudson Scholle, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., of the National Committee for Quality Assurance in Washington, D.C., and colleagues evaluated data from 148 Medicare and 46 commercial health plans. The data was analyzed for measures of care for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, and controlled for confounding factors such as age, income and ethnicity.

The investigators found that in terms of cholesterol control measures, more than half of the commercial plans had a disparity of more than 5 percent in favor of men among patients with diabetes or recent cardiovascular procedure, while none had a disparity in favor of women. The gender disparity was even greater among Medicare plans. There was no association between gender inequalities and health plan performance or region.

"Eliminating gender disparities in selected cardiovascular disease preventive quality of care measures has the potential to reduce major cardiac events including death by 4,785 to 10,170 per year among persons enrolled in U.S. health plans," the authors conclude. "Health plans should be encouraged to collect and monitor quality of care data for cardiovascular disease for men and women separately as a focus for quality improvement."

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