preventive medicine


preventive medicine
1. the branch of medical science that deals with prevention of disease.
2. a medication or other agent used for prophylaxis.
[1760-70]

* * *

Efforts toward disease prevention in the community and the individual.

It covers patient interviews and testing to detect risk factors; sanitary measures in homes, communities, and medical facilities; patient education; and diet and exercise programs as well as preventive drugs and surgery. It has three levels: primary (e.g., prevention of coronary heart disease in a healthy person), secondary (e.g., prevention of heart attack in a person with heart disease), and tertiary (e.g., prevention of disability and death after a heart attack). The first is by far the most economical. Important advances in preventive medicine include vaccination (see vaccine), antibiotics, diagnostic imaging, and recognition of psychological factors. See also epidemiology, immunology, industrial medicine, quarantine.

* * *

      efforts directed toward the prevention of disease, either in the community as a whole—an important part of what is broadly termed public health—or in the individual.

       Hippocrates, the Greek physician of the 5th century BC, classified causes of disease into those concerned with seasons, climates, and external conditions, and those more personal causes such as irregular food, exercise, and habits of the individual. Through the Middle Ages the principles of preventive medicine were ignored, in spite of the scourges of leprosy and plague. With the Renaissance came the new learning that revolutionized the whole content of medicine. Practitioners again observed the relation of the seasons, environmental conditions, and personal contact to the incidence of disease.

      Concurrent with the growth of medical knowledge there was an empirical movement of practical prevention. For example, in 1388 there was passed the first sanitary act in England, directed to the removal of nuisances; in 1443 came the first plague order recommending quarantine and cleansing; and in 1518 the first rough attempts at notification of epidemic disease and isolation of the patient were made. The study of mortality statistics was initiated in England in the 17th century. The basis of epidemiology was laid in the mid-17th century. In 1700 a treatise on occupational disorders was published in Italy. An English practitioner in the first half of the 18th century wrote on poisons, on plague and methods of its prevention, and on smallpox, measles, and scurvy. Vaccination was introduced in 1798. The early and middle years of the 19th century were notable for discoveries in the transmission of contagious diseases such as typhus, cholera, typhoid fever, and childbed (puerperal) fever. In the same period increasing attention was given to problems of hygiene and nutrition.

      The modern era in preventive medicine opened in the mid-19th century with Louis Pasteur's (Pasteur, Louis) discovery of the role of living microbes as the cause of infections. Toward the close of the century the principle of insect-borne transmission of disease was established. Serological tests were developed, such as the Widal reaction for typhoid fever (1896) and the Wassermann test for syphilis (1906). An understanding of the principles of immunity led to the development of active immunization to specific diseases. Parallel advances in treatment opened other doors for prevention—in diphtheria by antitoxin and in syphilis by arsphenamine. In 1932 the sulfonamide drugs and later the antibiotics including penicillin, streptomycin, chlortetracycline, and chloramphenicol afforded new opportunities of prevention and cure of bacterial diseases.

      After 1900 there were many advances in preventive medicine other than those related to infectious diseases. The use of X rays and radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease (e.g., tuberculosis and cancer) as well as in fundamental physiological research opened new possibilities. A greater understanding of endocrine functions, with the production of prepared hormone extracts such as insulin, led to preventive measures in certain metabolic diseases. The role of nutrition in health and disease and the isolation of many essential food factors illustrated the importance to health of adequate diet. Other 20th-century advances in preventive medicine included a wider recognition of psychological factors in relation to total health, new surgical techniques, new methods of anesthesia, and genetics research.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Preventive medicine — Medicine designed to avert and avoid disease. Screening for hypertension and treating it before it causes disease is good preventive medicine. Preventive medicine is a proactive approach. * * * preventive medicine n a branch of medical science… …   Medical dictionary

  • Preventive medicine — or preventive care refers to measures taken to prevent diseases,[1] (or injuries) rather than curing them or treating their symptoms. The term contrasts in method with curative and palliative medicine, and in scope with public health methods… …   Wikipedia

  • preventive medicine — noun the branch of medicine concerned with preventing disease (Freq. 1) the medical establishment doesn t profit from preventive medicine • Hypernyms: ↑medicine, ↑practice of medicine * * * noun : a branch of medical science dealing with methods… …   Useful english dictionary

  • preventive medicine — The anticipation, communication, prediction, identification, prevention, education, risk assessment, and control of communicable diseases, illnesses and exposure to endemic, occupational, and environmental threats. These threats include nonbattle …   Military dictionary

  • preventive medicine — pre.ventive medicine n [U] medical treatment, advice, and health education that is designed to prevent disease happening rather than cure it …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • preventive medicine — pre,ventive medicine noun uncount medical examinations, treatments, advice, etc. intended to prevent illness or discover it before it becomes serious …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • preventive medicine — the branch of medicine whose main aim is the prevention of disease. This is a wide field, in which workers tackle problems ranging from the immunization of persons against infectious diseases, such as diphtheria or whooping cough, to finding… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • preventive medicine — methods of treatment taken in order to prevent in advance the appearance of the disease in the future …   English contemporary dictionary

  • preventive medicine — noun (U) medical treatment, advice, and health education that is designed to prevent disease happening rather than cure it …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • preventive medicine — UK / US noun [uncountable] medical examinations, treatments, advice etc intended to prevent illness or discover it before it becomes serious …   English dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.