Health and Medicine Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2

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Updated on Sep 27, 2011

Health and Medicine Critical Reading

Questions 1–8 are based on the following passage.

The following passage offers the author's perspective on the need for healthcare providers with specialized training to care for a rapidly expanding population of older Americans.

The U.S. population is going gray. A rising demographic tide of aging baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—and increased longevity have made adults age 65 and older the fastest growing segment of today's population. In thirty years, this segment of the population will be nearly twice as large as it is today. By then, an estimated 70 million people will be over age 65. The number of "oldest old"— those age 85 and older—is 34 times greater than in 1900 and likely to expand five-fold by 2050.

This unprecedented "elder boom" will have a profound effect on American society, particularly the field of healthcare. Is the U.S. health system equipped to deal with the demands of an aging population? Although we have adequate physicians and nurses, many of them are not trained to handle the multiple needs of older patients. Today we have about 9,000 geriatricians (physicians who are experts in aging-related issues). Some studies estimate a need for 36,000 geriatricians by 2030.

Many doctors today treat a patient of 75 the same way they would treat a 40–year-old patient. However, although seniors are healthier than ever, physical challenges often increase with age. By age 75, adults often have two to three medical conditions. Diagnosing multiple health problems and knowing how they interact is crucial for effectively treating older patients. Healthcare professionals—often pressed for time in hectic daily practices—must be diligent about asking questions and collecting "evidence" from their elderly patients. Finding out about a patient's over-the-counter medications or living conditions could reveal an underlying problem.

Lack of training in geriatric issues can result in healthcare providers overlooking illnesses or conditions that may lead to illness. Inadequate nutrition is a common, but often unrecognized, problem among frail seniors. An elderly patient who has difficulty preparing meals at home may become vulnerable to malnutrition or another medical condition. Healthcare providers with training in aging issues may be able to address this problem without the costly solution of admitting a patient to a nursing home.

Depression, a treatable condition that affects nearly five million seniors, also goes undetected by some healthcare providers. Some healthcare professionals view depression as "just part of getting old." Untreated, this illness can have serious, even fatal consequences. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, older Americans account for a disproportionate share of suicide deaths, making up 18% of suicide deaths in 2000. Healthcare providers could play a vital role in preventing this outcome—several studies have shown that up to 75% of seniors who die by suicide visited a primary care physician within a month of their death.

Healthcare providers face additional challenges to providing high-quality care to the aging population. Because the numbers of ethnic minority elders are growing faster than the aging population as a whole, providers must train to care for a more racially and ethnically diverse population of elderly. Respect and understanding of diverse cultural beliefs is necessary to provide the most effective healthcare to all patients. Providers must also be able to communicate complicated medical conditions or treatments to older patients who may have a visual, hearing, or cognitive impairment.

As older adults make up an increasing proportion of the healthcare caseload, the demand for aging specialists must expand as well. Healthcare providers who work with the elderly must understand and address not only the physical but mental, emotional, and social changes of the aging process. They need to be able to distinguish between "normal" characteristics associated with aging and illness. Most crucially, they should look beyond symptoms and consider ways that will help a senior maintain and improve her quality of life.

  1. The author uses the phrase going gray (line 1) in order to
    1. maintain that everyone's hair loses its color eventually.
    2. suggest the social phenomenon of an aging population.
    3. depict older Americans in a positive light.
    4. demonstrate the normal changes of aging.
    5. highlight the tendency of American culture to emphasize youth.
  2. The tone of the passage is primarily one of
    1. bemused inquiry.
    2. detached reporting.
    3. informed argument.
    4. hysterical plea.
    5. playful speculation.
  3. The author implies that doctors who treat an elderly patient the same as they would a 40–year-old patient (line 18)
    1. provide equitable, high-quality care.
    2. avoid detrimental stereotypes about older patients.
    3. encourage middle-age adults to think about the long-term effects of their habits.
    4. do not offer the most effective care to their older patients.
    5. willfully ignore the needs of the elderly.
  4. In line 33, the word address most nearly means
    1. manage.
    2. identify.
    3. neutralize.
    4. analyze.
    5. dissect.
  5. The author cites the example of untreated depression in elderly people (lines 35–38) in order to
    1. prove that mental illness can affect people of all ages.
    2. undermine the perception that mental illness only affects young people.
    3. support the claim that healthcare providers need age-related training.
    4. show how mental illness is a natural consequence of growing old.
    5. illustrate how unrecognized illnesses increase the cost of healthcare.
  6. According to the passage, which of the following is NOT a possible benefit of geriatric training for healthcare providers?
    1. improved ability to explain a medical treatment to a person with a cognitive problem
    2. knowledge of how heart disease and diabetes may act upon each other in an elderly patient
    3. improved ability to attribute disease symptoms to the natural changes of aging
    4. more consideration for ways to improve the quality of life for seniors
    5. increased recognition of and treatment for depression in elders
  7. The author implies that a healthcare system that routinely looks beyond symptoms (line 60) is one that
    1. intrudes on the private lives of individuals.
    2. considers more than just the physical aspects of a person.
    3. rivals the social welfare system.
    4. misdiagnoses diseases that are common in the elderly.
    5. promotes the use of cutting-edge technology in medical care.
  8. In the last paragraph of the passage (lines 54–61) the author's tone is one of
    1. unmitigated pessimism.
    2. personal reticence.
    3. hypocritical indifference.
    4. urgent recommendation.
    5. frenzied panic.

Questions 9–16 are based on the following passage.

The following passage is an excerpt from a recent introduction to the momentous 1964 Report on Smoking and Health issued by the United States Surgeon General. It discusses the inspiration behind the report and the report's effect on public attitudes toward smoking.

No single issue has preoccupied the Surgeons General of the past four decades more than smoking. The reports of the Surgeon General have alerted the nation to the health risk of smoking, and have transformed the issue from one of individual and consumer choice, to one of epidemiology, public health, and risk for smokers and non-smokers alike.

Debate over the hazards and benefits of smoking has divided physicians, scientists, governments, smokers, and non-smokers since Tobacco nicotiana was first imported to Europe from its native soil in the Americas in the sixteenth century. A dramatic increase in cigarette smoking in the United States in the twentieth century called forth anti-smoking movements. Reformers, hygienists, and public health officials argued that smoking brought about general malaise, physiological malfunction, and a decline in mental and physical efficiency. Evidence of the ill effects of smoking accumulated during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

Epidemiologists used statistics and large-scale, long-term, casecontrol surveys to link the increase in lung cancer mortality to smoking. Pathologists and laboratory scientists confirmed the statistical relationship of smoking to lung cancer as well as to other serious diseases, such as bronchitis, emphysema, and coronary heart disease. Smoking, these studies suggested, and not air pollution, asbestos contamination, or radioactive materials, was the chief cause of the epidemic rise of lung cancer in the twentieth century. On June 12, 1957, Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney declared it the official position of the U.S. Public Health Service that the evidence pointed to a causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer.

The impulse for an official report on smoking and health, however, came from an alliance of prominent private health organizations. In June 1961, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the National Tuberculosis Association, and the American Public Health Association addressed a letter to President John F. Kennedy, in which they called for a national commission on smoking, dedicated to "seeking a solution to this health problem that would interfere least with the freedom of industry or the happiness of individuals." The Kennedy administration responded the following year, after prompting from a widely circulated critical study on cigarette smoking by the Royal College of Physicians of London. On June 7, 1962, recently appointed Surgeon General Luther L. Terry announced that he would convene a committee of experts to conduct a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the smoking question. . . .

Meeting at the National Library of Medicine on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, from November 1962 through January 1964, the committee reviewed more than 7,000 scientific articles with the help of over 150 consultants. Terry issued the commission's report on January 11, 1964, choosing a Saturday to minimize the effect on the stock market and to maximize coverage in the Sunday papers. As Terry remembered the event, two decades later, the report "hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the United States and many abroad."

The report highlighted the deleterious health consequences of tobacco use. Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General held cigarette smoking responsible for a 70% increase in the mortality rate of smokers over non-smokers. The report estimated that average smokers had a nine- to ten-fold risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-smokers: heavy smokers had at least a twenty-fold risk. The risk rose with the duration of smoking and diminished with the cessation of smoking. The report also named smoking as the most important cause of chronic bronchitis and pointed to a correlation between smoking and emphysema, and smoking and coronary heart disease. It noted that smoking during pregnancy reduced the average weight of newborns. On one issue the committee hedged: nicotine addiction. It insisted that the "tobacco habit should be characterized as an habituation rather than an addiction," in part because the addictive properties of nicotine were not yet fully understood, in part because of differences over the meaning of addiction.

The 1964 report on smoking and health had an impact on public attitudes and policy. A Gallup Survey conducted in 1958 found that only 44% of Americans believed smoking caused cancer, while 78% believed so by 1968. In the course of a decade, it had become common knowledge that smoking damaged health, and mounting evidence of health risks gave Terry's 1964 report public resonance. Yet, while the report proclaimed that "cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action," it remained silent on concrete remedies. That challenge fell to politicians. In 1965, Congress required all cigarette packages distributed in the United States to carry a health warning, and since 1970 this warning is made in the name of the Surgeon General. In 1969, cigarette advertising on television and radio was banned, effective September 1970.

  1. The primary purpose of the passage is to
    1. show the mounting evidence of the deleterious health consequences of smoking.
    2. explain why the Kennedy administration called for a national commission on smoking.
    3. describe the government's role in protecting public health.
    4. show the significance of the 1964 Surgeon General's report.
    5. account for the emergence of anti-smoking movements in twentieth-century United States.
  2. In line 1, preoccupied most nearly means
    1. distressed.
    2. beset.
    3. absorbed.
    4. inconvenienced.
    5. fomented.
  3. The first sentence of the second paragraph (lines 6–9) is intended to express the
    1. long-standing controversy about the effects of smoking.
    2. current consensus of the medical community regarding smoking.
    3. government's interest in improving public health.
    4. ongoing colloquy between physicians, scientists, and governments.
    5. causal relationship between smoking and lung disease.
  4. The author implies that the impulse (line 27) to create a government report on smoking
    1. was an overdue response to public demand.
    2. would not have been pursued if John F. Kennedy was not president.
    3. came from within the U.S. Public Health Service.
    4. would meet with significant opposition from smokers around the country.
    5. was the result of pressure from forces outside of the government.
  5. The quotation by Surgeon General Luther L. Terry (lines 48–50) is used to illustrate the
    1. outrage of consumers wanting to protect their right to smoke.
    2. disproportionate media coverage of the smoking report.
    3. overreaction of a hysterical public.
    4. explosive response to the revelation of smoking's damaging effects.
    5. positive role government can play in people's lives.
  6. In line 63, hedged most nearly means
    1. exaggerated.
    2. evaded.
    3. deceived.
    4. speculated.
    5. hindered.
  7. The statement that the 1964 Surgeon General's report remained silent on concrete remedies (line 76) implies that it
    1. served primarily as a manifesto that declared the views of the Surgeon General.
    2. could have recommended banning cigarette advertising but it did not.
    3. was ignorant of possible remedial actions.
    4. maintained its objectivity by abstaining from making policy recommendations.
    5. did not deem it necessary to recommend specific actions that would confront the health problem of smoking.
  8. In the last paragraph of the passage, the attitude of the author toward the legacy of the 1964 Surgeon General's report is one of
    1. unqualified praise.
    2. appreciation.
    3. wonderment.
    4. cynicism.
    5. disillusionment.

Questions 17–25 are based on the following passages.

These two passages reflect two different views of the value of cosmetic plastic surgery. Passage 1 is an account by a physician who has practiced internal medicine (general medicine) for more than two decades and who has encountered numerous patients inquiring about cosmetic plastic surgery procedures. Passage 2 is written by a professional woman in her mid-forties who has considered cosmetic plastic surgery for herself.

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