Preventive healthcare or preventive care consists of measures taken to prevent diseases, (or injuries) rather than curing them or treating their symptoms. This contrasts in method with curative and palliative care, and in scope with public health methods (which work at the level of population health rather than individual health).
Preventive healthcare strategies are typically described as taking place at the primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary prevention levels. In addition, the term primal prevention has been used to describe all measures taken to ensure fetal well-being and prevent any long-term health consequences from gestational history and/or disease. The rationale for such efforts is the evidence demonstrating the link between fetal well-being, or "primal health", and adult health. Primal prevention strategies typically focus on providing future parents with: education regarding the consequences of epigenetic influences on their child, sufficient leave time for both parents or, for lack of it, at least some kin care giving.
Simple examples of preventive healthcare include hand washing, breastfeeding, immunizations, proper nutrition and exercise promotion. Preventive care may include examinations and screening tests tailored to an individual's age, health, and family history. For example, a person with a family history of certain cancers or other diseases would begin screening at an earlier age and/or more frequently than those with no such family history. On the other side of preventive healthcare, some nonprofit organizations, such as the Northern California Cancer Center, apply epidemiological research towards finding ways to prevent diseases.
Universal, selective, and indicated
Gordon (1987) in the area of disease prevention, and later Kumpfer and Baxley in the area of substance use proposed a three-tiered preventive intervention classification system: universal, selective, and indicated prevention. Amongst others, this typology has gained favor and is used by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the NIDA and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
|Primary prevention||Methods to avoid occurrence of disease. Most population-based health promotion efforts are type.|
|Secondary prevention||Methods to diagnose and treat existent disease in early stages before it causes significant morbidity.|
|Tertiary prevention||Methods to reduce negative impact of existent disease by restoring function and reducing disease-related complications.|
|Universal prevention||Involves whole population (nation, local community, school, district) and aims to prevent or delay the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. All individuals, without screening, are provided with information and skills needed to prevent the problem.|
|Selective prevention||Involves groups whose risk of developing problems of alcohol abuse or dependence is above average. Subgroups may be distinguished by traits such as age, gender, family history, or economic status. For example, drug campaigns in recreational settings.|
|Indicated prevention||Involves a screening process, and aims to identify individuals who exhibit early signs of substance abuse and other problem behaviours. Identifiers may include falling grades among students, known problem consumption or conduct disorders, alienation from parents, school, and positive peer groups etc.|
Outside the scope of this three-tier model is environmental prevention. Environmental prevention approaches are typically managed at the regulatory or community level and focus on ways to deter drug consumption. Prohibition and bans (e.g. on smoking, alcohol advertising) may be viewed as the ultimate environmental restriction. However, in practice, environmental preventions programs embrace various initiatives at the macro and micro level, from government monopolies for alcohol sales through roadside sobriety or drug tests, worker/pupil/student drug testing, increased policing in sensitive settings (near schools, at rock festivals), and legislative guidelines aimed at precipitating punishments (warnings, penalties, fines).
Professionals involved in the public health aspect of this practice may be involved in entomology, pest control, and public health inspections. Public health inspections can include recreational waters, swimming pools, beaches, food preparation and serving, and industrial hygiene inspections and surveys.
In the United States, preventive medicine is a medical specialty, and has one of the 24 certifying boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) dedicated to it as well as one of the 18 certifying boards recognized by the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOABOS). It encompasses three areas of specialization:
- General preventive medicine and public health
- Aerospace medicine
- Occupational medicine
To become board-certified in one of the preventive medicine areas of specialization, a licensed U.S. physician (M.D. or D.O.) must successfully complete a preventive medicine medical residency program following a one-year internship. Following that, the physician must pass the preventive medicine board examination. The residency program is at least two years in length and includes completion of a master's degree in public health (MPH) or equivalent. The board exam takes a full day: the morning session concentrates on general preventive medicine questions, while the afternoon session concentrates on the one of the three areas of specialization that the applicant has studied.
In addition, there are two subspecialty areas of certification:
These certifications require sitting for an examination following successful completion of an MT or UHB fellowship and prior board certification in one of the 24 ABMS-recognized specialties or 18 AOABOS-recognized specialties.
Advanced practice registered nurse specialities incorporate preventative healthcare into their education and training programs. In addition, public health nursing and occupational health nursing traditionally focuses on preventative healthcare.
Prophylaxis (Greek: προφυλάσσω to guard or prevent beforehand) is any medical or public health procedure whose purpose is to prevent, rather than treat or cure, a disease or other medical issue. In general terms, prophylactic measures are divided between primary prophylaxis (to prevent the development of a disease) and secondary prophylaxis (whereby the disease has already developed and the patient is protected against worsening of this process).
Some specific examples of prophylaxis include:
- Many vaccines are prophylactic, vaccines such as polio vaccine, smallpox vaccine, measles vaccine, mumps vaccine and others have greatly reduced many childhood diseases; HPV vaccines prevent certain cancers; influenza vaccine.
- Birth control methods are used to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Condoms, for instance, are sometimes euphemistically referred to as "prophylactics" because of their use to prevent pregnancy, as well as the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
- Daily and moderate physical exercise in various forms can be called prophylactic because it can maintain or improve one's health. Cycling for transport appears to very significantly improve health by reducing risk of heart diseases, various cancers, muscular- and skeletal diseases, and overall mortality.
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day may be prophylactic. It may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Fluoride therapy and tooth cleaning, either at home or by a professional, are parts of dental prophylaxis or oral prophylaxis.
- Antibiotics are sometimes used prophylactically: For example, during the 2001 anthrax attacks scare in the United States, patients believed to be exposed were given ciprofloxacin. In similar manner, the use of antibiotic ointments on burns and other wounds is prophylactic. Antibiotics are also given prophylactically just before some medical procedures such as pacemaker insertion.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) may, with caution, be an example of a chronic migraine preventive (see amitriptyline and migraines' prevention by medicine).
- Antimalarials such as chloroquine and mefloquine are used both in treatment and as prophylaxis by visitors to countries where malaria is endemic to prevent the development of the parasitic Plasmodium, which cause malaria.
- Mechanical measures (such as graduated compression stockings or intermittent pneumatic compression) and drugs (such as low-molecular-weight heparin, unfractionated heparin, and fondaparinux) may be used in immobilized hospital patients at risk of venous thromboembolism.
- Risk reducing or prophylactic mastectomies may be carried out for carriers of the BRCA mutation gene to minimise the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Early and exclusive breastfeeding provides immunological protection against infectious diseases and well as reduced risk of chronic diseases for both mother and child.
- Polypill for prevention of e.g. cardiovascular disease.
- Potassium iodide is used prophylactically to protect the thyroid gland from absorbing inhaled or ingested radioactive iodine, which may lead to the development of thyroid cancer; radioactive iodine may be released into the environment in the event of an accident at a nuclear power plant, or the detonation of a nuclear explosive (see thyroid protection due to nuclear accidents and emergencies).
- Prophylaxis may be administered as oral medication. Oral prophylaxis includes: PEP, nPEP, or PrEP. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis used in an occupational setting e.g., to prevent the spread of HIV or Hepatitis C from patient to staff following an accidental needlestick. nPEP is non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. nPEP may be used in a sexual or injection exposure to HIV, hepatitis, or other infectious agents; for example, during intercourse, if the condom breaks and one partner is HIV-positive, nPEP will help to decrease the probability that the HIV-negative partner becomes infected with HIV. (An nPEP is sometimes known as a PEPse - i.e. post-exposure prophylaxis sexual encounter.) PrEP is a measure taken daily (before, during, and after) possible exposure; for example, by a person who inconsistently uses condoms during sex with a partner who may have an HIV infection.
- Exercise is a key element in the prevention of inflammatory diseases in particular. Developing research has demonstrated that many of the benefits of exercise are mediated through the role of skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ. That is, contracting muscles release multiple substances known as myokines which promote the growth of new tissue, tissue repair, and various anti-inflammatory functions, which in turn reduce the risk of developing various inflammatory diseases.
Since preventive healthcare deals with healthy individuals or populations the costs and potential harms from interventions need even more careful examination than in treatment. For an intervention to be applied widely it generally needs to be affordable and highly cost effective.
For instance, intrauterine devices (IUD) are highly effective and highly cost effective contraceptives, however where universal health care is not available the initial cost may be a barrier. IUDs work for several years (3 to 7 or more) and cost less over a year or two's time than most other reversible contraceptive methods. They are also highly cost effective, saving health insurers and the public significant costs in unwanted pregnancies. Making contraceptives available with no up front cost is one way to increase usage, improving health and saving money.
Preventive solutions may be less profitable and therefore less attractive to makers and marketers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Birth control pills which are taken every day and may take in a thousand dollars over ten years may generate more profits than an IUD, which despite a huge initial markup only generates a few hundred dollars over the same period.
Electronic Health Records
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) can be used to help healthcare professionals provide preventive services. EHRs may improve prevention by providing professionals and patients better access to test results, identifying missing patient information, and offering evidence-based recommendations for preventive services.
Leading cause of preventable death
|Cause||Deaths caused (millions per year)|
|Sexually transmitted infections||3.0|
|Overweight and obesity||2.5|
|Indoor air pollution from solid fuels||1.8|
|Unsafe water and poor sanitation||1.6|
|Intervention||Percent of all child deaths preventable|
|Water, sanitation, hygiene||3|
|Newborn temperature management||2|
|Nevirapine and replacement feeding||2|
|Antibiotics for premature rupture of membranes||1|
|Antimalarial intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy||<1%|
|Cause||Deaths caused||% of all deaths|
|Poor diet and physical inactivity||400,000||16.6|
|Sexually transmitted infections||20,000||0.8|
- American Board of Preventive Medicine
- American Osteopathic Board of Preventive Medicine
- Mental illness prevention
- Monitoring (medicine)
- Post-exposure prophylaxis
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis
- Preventive Medicine (journal)
- Prophylactic rule
- Public health
- Preventive Medicine at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Primal Research Center, London
- Primal Health Research Databank
- Effect of In Utero and Early-Life Conditions on Adult Health and Disease, by P.D.Gluckman et al., N ENG J MED 359;1
- Origins: How the nine months before birth shape the rest of your life, by Annie Murphy Paul, Time magazine, 176.14, 2010
- Primary Prevention at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Secondary Prevention at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Tertiary Prevention at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Gordon, R. (1987), ‘An operational classification of disease prevention’, in Steinberg, J. A. and Silverman, M. M. (eds.), Preventing Mental Disorders, Rock-ville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1987.
- Kumpfer, K. L., and Baxley, G. B. (1997), 'Drug abuse prevention: What works?', National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rock-ville.
- "What Is Prophylaxis?". wiseGEEK.
- Jamie Michelle Womack (2010) "Safety and adherence: Issues that hinder childhood vaccinations" Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants
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- United States Department of Agriculture. "Why is it important to eat fruit?". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- "Recommendations for using fluoride to prevent and control dental caries in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention". MMWR. Recommendations and reports : Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Recommendations and reports / Centers for Disease Control 50 (RR-14): 1–42. 2001. PMID 11521913.
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- Kahn SR, Lim W, Dunn AS, et al. (February 2012). "Prevention of VTE in Nonsurgical Patients: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines". Chest 141 (2 suppl): e195S–e226S. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2296. PMC 3278052. PMID 22315261.
- Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, ChewP, Magula N, DeVine D, Litt M, Trikalinos T, Lau J. Breastfeeding and maternal and infant health outcomes in developed countries. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment Number 153. 2007 April; AHRQ Publication No. 07-E007.
- Muscle as a secretory organ. Pedersen BK. American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 3:1337-1362, 2013. http://www.inflammation-metabolism.dk/index.php?pageid=21&pmid=23897689
- J. Joseph Speidel, Cynthia C. Harper, and Wayne C. Shields (September 2008). "The Potential of Long-acting Reversible Contraception to Decrease Unintended Pregnancy". Contraception.
- James Trussell, Anjana Lalla, Quan Doan, Eileen Reyes, Lionel Pinto, Joseph Gricar (2009). "Cost effectiveness of contraceptives in the United States". Contraception 79 (1): 5–14. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2008.08.003. PMC 3638200. PMID 19041435.
- Monea J, Thomas A (June 2011). "Unintended pregnancy and taxpayer spending". Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 43 (2): 88–93. doi:10.1363/4308811. PMID 21651707.
- "Primary Care Patients Use Interactive Preventive Health Record Integrated With Electronic Health Record, Leading to Enhanced Provision of Preventive Services". Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
- "Physician Practices Use Software-Facilitated System to Complete Medicare Annual Wellness Visit, Improving Preventive Care and Generating High Satisfaction". Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2013-03-06. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
- "Electronic Standing Orders Highlight Care Gaps and Allow Nonphysicians to Address Them, Leading to Increased Provision of Preventive Services". Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
- Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzati M, Jamison DT, Murray CJ (May 2006). "Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data". Lancet 367 (9524): 1747–57. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68770-9. PMID 16731270.
- Jones G, Steketee R, Black R, Bhutta Z, Morris S, and the Bellagio Child Survival Study Group* (5 July 2003, 2003). "How many child deaths can we prevent this year?". Lancet 362 (9524): 1747–57.
- Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL (March 2004). "Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000". JAMA 291 (10): 1238–45. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238. PMID 15010446.
- US Preventive Medicine Task Force
- US Preventive Medicine
- The Prevention Plan
- Health-EU Portal Prevention and Promotion