Three Levels of Health Promotion/Disease Prevention

Levels of Prevention

Three broad categories of determinants of human behavior will be discussed in this study session and you will have an opportunity to learn about the influence of these factors in determining human behavior.

Prevention, as it relates to health, is really about avoiding disease before it starts. It has been defined as the plans for, and the measures taken, to prevent the onset of a disease or other health problem before the occurrence of the undesirable health event. There are three distinct levels of prevention.

Primary prevention—those preventive measures that prevent the onset of illness or injury before the disease process begins.

  • Examples include immunization and taking regular exercise.


Secondary prevention—those preventive measures that lead to early diagnosis and prompt treatment of a disease, illness or injury to prevent more severe problems developing. Here health educators such as Health Extension Practitioners can help individuals acquire the skills of detecting diseases in their early stages.

  • Examples include screening for high blood pressure and breast self-examination.


Tertiary prevention—those preventive measures aimed at rehabilitation following significant illness. At this level health services workers can work to retrain, re-educate and rehabilitate people who have already developed an impairment or disability.

Read the list of the three levels of prevention again. Think about your experience of health education, whether as an educator or recipient of health education.

  • How do you think health education can help with the prevention of disease?
  • Do you think it will operate at all these levels?
  • Note an example of possible health education interventions at each level where you think health education can be applied.


Health Education can be applied at all three levels of disease prevention and can be of great help in maximizing the gains from preventive behavior.

  • For example at the primary prevention level — you could educate people to practice some of the preventive behaviors, such as having a balanced diet so that they can protect themselves from developing diseases in the future.
  • At the secondary level, you could educate people to visit their local health center when they experience symptoms of illness, such as fever, so they can get early treatment for their health problems.
  • At the tertiary level, you could educate people to take their medication appropriately and find ways of working towards rehabilitation from significant illness or disability.


You have learned that:

  • Primary prevention includes those preventive measures that come before the onset of illness or injury and before the disease process begins. Examples include immunization and taking regular exercise to prevent health problems developing in the future.
  • Secondary prevention includes those preventive measures that lead to early diagnosis and prompt treatment of a disease, illness or injury. This should limit disability, impairment or dependency and prevent more severe health problems developing in the future.
  • Tertiary prevention includes those preventive measures aimed at rehabilitation following significant illness. At this level health educators work to retrain, re-educate and rehabilitate the individual who has already had an impairment or disability.


Summary

  • Primary prevention includes those measures that prevent the onset of illness before the disease process begins. Immunization against infectious disease is a good example.
  • Secondary prevention includes those measures that lead to early diagnosis and prompt treatment of a disease. Breast self-examination is a good example of secondary prevention.
  • Tertiary prevention involves the rehabilitation of people who have already been affected by a disease, or activities to prevent an established disease from becoming worse.


Make sure that you are comfortable with the difference between primary prevention activities and secondary prevention activities. Remember that primary prevention activities will actually stop the illness happening, while secondary activities stop the illnesses getting worse.

Learning Activity

  1. Go to Take a Look at Health to find out the major health issues facing Americans are today.
  2. Click on various risk factors, demographics, diseases and conditions to see graphic comparisons.

    • What are some of the most common conditions, and how are they related to one another?
    • What can we do to improve our health?








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