Monday, May 27, 2013

What's Primary & Secondary Prevention

Vaccines are a form of primary prevention.

Public health specialists and medical officials often preach the benefits of primary and secondary prevention. These programs of activities aimed at groups of people seek to reduce the burden of disease and premature death in a population. As part of preventive medicine, primary and secondary prevention are at the heart of the health care system.


Primary and secondary prevention are strategies to prevent or slow the progression of disease. Individual level primary and secondary prevention takes place in the medical care delivery system, such as at a doctor's office or hospital. Population based primary and secondary prevention takes place at the community, state or national level and public health agencies and non-profit organizations coordinate these efforts.


Primary prevention involves preventing risk factors that lead to chronic diseases, infections and injuries. Types of primary prevention include vaccination, condom usage and behavioral counseling for smoking cessation, physical activity and nutrition. Secondary prevention reacts to prevent further exacerbation of a known problem. Types of activities used in secondary prevention include using medication to treat conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, screening for sexually transmitted diseases or utilizing nicotine patches to reduce smoking frequency.


Primary prevention targets a very large population, such as all adults or all women; getting word out about why the issue is important and getting buy-in from the population can present significant difficulties. Secondary prevention requires identification of a target population, which can consume time, money and resources. Ensuring that primary and secondary prevention activities are culturally appropriate, sufficiently funded and efficiently run often presents a significant burden to the agency directing the prevention activity.


Primary prevention reaches large numbers of people potentially at risk of a serious health condition, thereby generating a large "bang for the buck" in health spending. The impact of secondary prevention on individuals can mean the difference between good health and suffering from a chronic disease. Medical providers and insurers benefit from primary and secondary prevention activities when patients are able to maintain good health and avoid disease, and all healthcare consumers can benefit from the health education and screening efforts.


As the population ages, primary and secondary prevention have the potential to make significant impacts on the health and quality of life of Americans. Primary prevention activities might also impact the workplace, schools and communities as awareness increases about the effects of prevention on overall health; examples of possible changes include addition of workout facilities, information sessions provided by nutritionists or free on-site vaccination clinics. Both primary and secondary prevention activities have the potential to avert serious economic problems related to lost productivity, medical treatment and premature death caused by chronic conditions.

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