More Study Needed on Cholesterol Screening in Children

Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) just released final recommendations based on its recent investigation into screening for lipid disorders in children and adolescents without signs, symptoms, or a diagnosis for the conditions.
It determined that there was insufficient research to establish the benefits and risks of screening for high cholesterol in this population. Specifically, the USPSTF found no conclusive evidence that the early identification and treatment of high cholesterol in children and teens leads to long-term improved health in adults.
As a result, it recommended neither for or against lipid disorder screening in younger patients, granting this service a grade of “I.”
“By issuing an ‘I’ statement, we are calling for more research to better understand the benefits and harms of screening and treatment of lipid disorders in children and teens and on the impact these interventions may have on their cardiovascular health as adults,” said task force vice-chair David Grossman, MD, MPH, in a press release. “In the absence of evidence, health care professionals should continue to take each patient’s individual risks and circumstances in consideration, and use their best judgment when deciding whether or not to screen.”
Not all health organizations agree with the USPSTF’s assessment. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute both currently recommend that all children aged 9 to 11 years be screened for high cholesterol due to the growing prevalence of childhood obesity.
Despite the USPSTF’s inconclusiveness on cholesterol screening in younger patients, it did recommend that children aged 6 and older be screened for childhood obesity and referred for counseling on weight management
Following the publication of its draft recommendations in December 2015, Target Clinics professional services manager Courtney Ballina, BSN, MSN, NP, explained that the USPSTF’s decision would likely affect reimbursement, as insurance companies are unlikely to cover services that it doesn’t support. She added, however, that retail clinics can still play a crucial role in combating lipid disorders in kids and teens by counseling patients and parents about the health risks of high cholesterol and childhood obesity.
“Oftentimes, the retail clinician is uniquely positioned to do some hands-on training—actually walking into the aisles of the store to teach how to read a food label or make some healthy recommendations for snacks,” Ballina previously told Contemporary Clinic. “It would be great to further develop our partnerships with primary care providers and pediatricians to offer these kinds of supportive services once they have actually diagnosed a child with high cholesterol.”
The USPSTF’s full recommendation statement was published in JAMA.

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