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GAO discussed its ongoing work on the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) responsibility for health information dissemination, focusing on the HHS strategy for ensuring that women receive critical health information. GAO noted that: (1) health risk knowledge is basic to the prevention and control of diseases affecting older women; (2) the law requires HHS to provide health information; (3) a 1985 task force reported that HHS efforts on education and dissemination of information on women's health issues were sporadic and fragmentary, and that an urgent need existed for a comprehensive approach to educating and informing women about all aspects of their health; (4) HHS does not have such an overall comprehensive strategy; (5) HHS predominantly bases its decisions to produce and distribute health information on the availability of scientifically sound research results, the extent of consumer inquiry on the subject, staff judgment, existing information and stated goals; (6) each HHS agency develops and conducts its own distribution plans independent of other agencies; (7) regional offices are the primary distributors of information to the public; (8) it was often unsuccessful in obtaining information from the regional offices and state/local health departments; and (9) HHS rarely evaluates how useful its information is to women.

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