Estimating the gains of early detection of hypertension over the marginal patient

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Abstract

This study estimated the potential impact of early diagnosis programs on health outcomes in England. Specifically, if advising individuals to visit their family doctor due to a suspected case of mild hypertension would result in (i) an increase in the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure; (ii) an improved lifestyle reflected in objective measures such as the body-mass-index and blood pressure levels; (iii) a reduced probability of the onset of other cardiovascular diseases, such as diabetes. To address potential selection bias in screening, a feature of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing is exploited, motivating a regression discontinuity design. If respondents’ blood pressure measurements are above a standard clinical threshold, they are advised to visit their family doctor to confirm hypertension. Two years after the protocol, there is evidence of an increase in diagnosis (5.7 pp, p-val = 0.06) and medication use (6 pp, p-val = 0.007) for treating the condition. However, four years after the protocol, the difference in diagnosis and medication disappeared (4 pp, p-val = 0.384; 3.4 pp, p-val = 0.261). Moreover, there are no differences on observed blood pressure levels (systolic 0.026 mmHg, p-val = 0.815; diastolic -0.336 mmHg, p-val = 0.765), or Body-Mass-Index ((0.771, p-val = 0.154)). There are also no differences on diagnosis of diabetes (1.7 pp, p-val = 0.343) or heart related conditions (3.6 pp, p-value = 0.161). In conclusion, the nudge produces an earlier diagnosis of around two years, but there are no perceivable gains in health outcomes after four years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0254260
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume16
Issue number7 July
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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