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

Level

When used

Example

Primary

For completely well

Controlling weight to

people

prevent high blood

pressure

Secondary

For people with risks for

Using medicine to lower

illness (e.g., high

blood pressure

blood pressure)

Tertiary

For people with devel-

Rehabilitation to pre-

oped disease (e.g.,

vent the condition

heart disease resulting

from getting worse

from high blood

pressure)

Table IV Examples of Three Types of Prevention Programs

Type of program

Description

Outcomes

Clinical preven

Brief counseling, re-

Difficult to institute;

tive services

ferral, patient

some evidence of

education

success

Community-based

Changing local pat-

Difficult to institute;

preventive

terns of expected

better evidence of

services

behavior, and peer

success

pressure

Social policy for

Taxes, seat belt laws

Better evidence of

prevention

success

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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