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Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
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© University of Glasgow

Disease prevention can be considered as being specific, population-based or individual-based interventions that aim to minimise the burden of diseases and associated risk factors. The ultimate goal is to reduce the incidence and prevalence of health problems.

Generally disease prevention can be considered in terms of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Prevention.

Primary prevention: this is actions aimed at avoiding the manifestation of a disease. Such primary prevention activities include:

  • Vaccination of children, adults and the elderly;
  • Nutritional and food supplementation; and
  • Dental hygiene education and oral health services.

Secondary prevention: this involves early detection to improve the chances for positive health outcomes. Secondary prevention activities include:

  • Population-based screening programmes for early detection of diseases.

Tertiary prevention: this involves interventions that reduce disability, enhance rehabilitation and prevent relapses and recurrences of the illness.

Health promotion is the process of empowering people to increase control over their health and its determinants. It usually addresses behavioural risk factors such as; tobacco use, obesity, diet and physical inactivity, as well as the areas of mental health, injury prevention, drug abuse, alcohol use, health behaviour related to HIV and sexual health.

Prevention in mental health has been on-going for many years and there are now a wide range of evidence-based preventive programmes and policies available for implementation. These have been found to reduce risk factors, strengthen protective factors and decrease psychiatric symptoms and disability and the onset of some mental disorders. Additional information about effective interventions for mental illness can be found in the WHO Prevention of Mental Disorders resource. These prevention strategies may also contribute to better physical health and generate social and economic benefits. These multi-outcome interventions illustrate that prevention can be cost-effective.

While disease prevention and health promotion share many goals, and there is considerable overlap between their respective functions, they are different approaches.


Identify health promotion strategies in your local setting and consider if these have been successful, and possible reasons for their level of success.

If you need to seek support, please access the Wellbeing Resources from Step 1.6.

© University of Glasgow
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