Routine health checks could prevent deaths

The UK’s NHS Health Check appointments – a free, preventative screening program – are linked with a decreased risk of people dying from any cause, as well as a decreased risk of several diseases, say Hungarian and British researchers. The appointments, which are offered to adults aged 40 – 74, were found to decrease the diagnosis rates for dementia by 19%, acute kidney injury diagnoses by 23%, liver cirrhosis diagnoses by 44%, and the NHS Health Check recipients also had a 23% lower risk of death from any cause, compared with people who did not attend the appointments.

Journal/conference: BMC Medicine

Link to research (DOI): 10.1186/s12916-023-03187-w

Organisation/s: University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Funder: SN, BR, and CM were supported by the Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Centre
(IS-BRC-1215–20008), the Oxford British Heart Foundation Centre of Research
Excellence. LS received funding from the European Association of Cardiovascular
Imaging (EACVI Research Grant App000076437) and the Barts Charity
(G-002389). ZRE recognises the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
Integrated Academic Training programme which supports her Academic Clinical
Lectureship post and was also supported by the British Heart Foundation
Clinical Research Training Fellowship No. FS/17/81/33318. SEP acknowledges
support from the “SmartHeart” EPSRC programme grant (www. nihr.ac.uk; EP/
P001009/1). SEP has also received funding from the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 825903
(euCanSHare project). AT is supported by a Wellcome Trust (https:// wellc
ome. org/) fellowship (216462/Z/19/Z). MH is supported by the Wellcome
Trust (206330/Z/17/Z) and NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (ISBRC-
1215–20008). TEN is supported by the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information
and Discovery, an NIH grant (https:// www. nih. gov/, TN: R01EB026859);
the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC-1215–20014); and a
Wellcome Trust award (TN: 100309/Z/12/Z). This work includes data provided
by patients and collected by the NHS and NHS Digital as part of their care and
support. The research was supported by the Wellcome Trust Core Award Grant
Number 203141/Z/16/Z with funding from the NIHR Oxford BRC. The views
expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the
NIHR, or the Department of Health. This research used data assets made available
by the National Safe Haven as part of the Data and Connectivity National
Core Study, led by Health Data Research UK in partnership with the Office for
National Statistics and funded by UK Research and Innovation (MCPC20058).

Media release

From: Springer Nature

Health: Routine health checks associated with decreased risk of death

Attending an NHS Health Check appointment — a preventative screening programme offered for free in the UK — is associated with both a decreased risk of dying and a decreased risk of several diseases, including dementia and liver cirrhosis. The results, published in BMC Medicine, suggest that the NHS Health Check and other similar preventative programmes can be effective at reducing a population’s overall risk of long-term disease.

The NHS Health Check is a preventative screening programme designed to identify individuals at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. Healthy adults aged 40–74 are invited to attend an appointment involving basic physical checks and a health behaviour survey. Attendees are then offered tailored support to delay or prevent the onset of the screened-for conditions. Similar programmes are in place in several other countries, including France and Germany. However, there has so far been little research into the effectiveness of the programme in preventing long-term disease.

Celeste McCracken and colleagues used data from 97,204 UK Biobank participants to investigate associations between attending an NHS Health Check appointment and the risk of death or a future diagnosis of 14 different health conditions. Participants were recruited between 2006 and 2010, with 48,602 members of the cohort attending a Health Check appointment between January 2008 and June 2016. Each participant who attended an appointment was matched with a participant who did not attend one but had similar potentially confounding characteristics such as demographics and health behaviours. Participants’ linked health records were checked for disease diagnosis over a mean follow-up of nine years.

The authors found that those participants who attended an NHS Health Check appointment had significantly lower diagnosis rates for several diseases, including a 19% lower rate of dementia diagnosis, a 23% lower rate of acute kidney injury diagnosis, and a 44% lower rate of liver cirrhosis diagnosis. NHS Health Check recipients also had a 23% lower risk of death from any cause.

The results suggest that preventative screening programmes like the NHS Health Check can be effective at reducing the rates of long-term disease, according to the authors. They note that there may be a self-selection bias in the results, as attendees of screening programmes are typically healthier than those who do not attend. However, the authors argue that the matching process used to choose the control half of the cohort should reduce the effects of this bias.

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