Prevention Sciences

Behavioral medicine has a strong commitment to disease prevention. Prevention can be divided into primary and secondary. Primary prevention is the prevention of a problem before it develops. Thus, the primary prevention of heart disease starts with people who have no symptoms or characteristics of the disease and there is intervention to prevent these diseases from becoming established. In secondary prevention, we begin with a population at risk and develop efforts to prevent the condition from becoming worse. Tertiary prevention deals with the treatment of established conditions and is the main focus of clinical medicine. Table III uses the example of high blood pressure to illustrate these three approaches to prevention.

Prevention has different meanings for different

Table III Three Levels of Prevention


When used



For completely well

Controlling weight to


prevent high blood



For people with risks for

Using medicine to lower

illness (e.g., high

blood pressure

blood pressure)


For people with devel-

Rehabilitation to pre-

oped disease (e.g.,

vent the condition

heart disease resulting

from getting worse

from high blood


Table IV Examples of Three Types of Prevention Programs

Type of program



Clinical preven

Brief counseling, re-

Difficult to institute;

tive services

ferral, patient

some evidence of




Changing local pat-

Difficult to institute;


terns of expected

better evidence of


behavior, and peer



Social policy for

Taxes, seat belt laws

Better evidence of



people. Partners for Prevention, a nonprofit organization, emphasizes that there are at least three different components of prevention. These include clinical preventive services, community-based preventive services, and social policies for prevention. Clinical preventive services typically involve medical treatments such as immunization and screening tests. Clinical services may also include counseling and behavioral interventions. Community-based preventive services include public programs to ensure safe air, water, or food supplies, as well as behavioral interventions to change local patterns of diet, exercise, or smoking. Social policies for prevention might involve regulation of environmental exposures or exposure to hazardous materials at the work place. These social approaches also include taxes on alcohol and cigarettes and physical changes to ensure better traffic safety. Examples of these three types of prevention programs are given in Table IV.

Your Heart and Nutrition

Your Heart and Nutrition

Prevention is better than a cure. Learn how to cherish your heart by taking the necessary means to keep it pumping healthily and steadily through your life.

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