Challenges in Developing U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Child Health Recommendations

Challenges in Developing U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Child Health Recommendations (Article in Advancing the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Methods: Important Considerations in Making Evidence-Based Guidelines, Special Issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine).
Kemper, Alex R. Krist, Alex H. Tseng, Chien-Wen. Gillman, Matthew W. Et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
54(1 sp. 1)S63-S69


The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) uses an objective evidence-based approach to develop recommendations. As part of this process, the USPSTF also identifies important research gaps in scientific evidence. In March 2016, the USPSTF convened an expert panel to discuss its portfolio of child and adolescent recommendations and identify unique methodologic issues when evaluating evidence regarding children and adolescents. The panel identified key domains of challenges, including measuring patient-centered health outcomes; identifying intermediate outcomes predictive of important health outcomes; evaluating the long time horizon needed to assess the balance of benefits and harms; understanding trajectories of growth and development that result in unique windows of time when expected benefits or harms of a preventive service can vary; and considering the perspectives of other individuals who might be affected by the delivery of a preventive service to a child or adolescent. Although the expert panel expressed an interest in being able to make more recommendations for or against preventive services for children and adolescents, it also reinforced the importance of ensuring recommendations were based on sound and sufficient evidence to ensure greatest benefit and minimize unnecessary harms. Accordingly, the need to highlight areas with insufficient evidence is as important as making recommendations. Having identified these key challenges, the USPSTF and other organizations issuing guidelines have an opportunity to advance their methods of evidence synthesis and identified evidence gaps represent important opportunities for researchers and policy makers.