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I. Discussion
The prevention of disease is grouped into three levels (primary, secondary, and tertiary). If you are not sure
whether the action or condition is primary or secondary, ask yourself this question: Will performing this action
prevent the disease or the social condition from happening? If it does, then it is considered as primary
prevention (if it does not, then it is secondary prevention). Primary prevention can be performed by individuals,
or by nations (federal programs such as Women, Infants, and Children [WIC]), as well as on a global level
(WHO health promotion programs). Remember that the breast self-exam (BSE) and the genital self-exam
(GSE) are both considered as secondary prevention. Tertiary prevention involves not only rehabilitation,
but also includes activities that will help to prevent complications from disease treatment, such as patient
education about medication side effects or the proper use of equipment such as a cane. Support groups for a
disease/condition are all considered as part of a tertiary prevention activity.
Primary Prevention (Prevent Disease/Injury/Condition)
Youth violence prevention (e.g., youth recreational center for high-risk inner-city youth, mentoring teens,
teaching teens better communication skills).
Bullying prevention (e.g., antibullying school programs).
Personal safety promotion (e.g., seatbelts, airbags, helmets).
Disease prevention (e.g., immunizations, using sunscreen).
Healthy lifestyle promotion (e.g., sleep 78 hours/night, avoid sunlight 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., healthy diet,
Promotion of OSHA laws (e.g., workplace safety) and EPA laws (e.g., clean water, antipollution laws).
Secondary Prevention (Detect Disease/Conditionas Early as Possible)
Any laboratory test to screen for a disease (e.g., CBC for anemia, TSH for thyroid disease).
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) screening recommendations (e.g., mammograms, PSA,
purified protein derivative [PPD]).
Screening for high-risk behavior (e.g., asking a patient about the number of sexual partners), screening for
suicide risk (e.g., assess suicide risk, check for signs and symptoms of depression).
Personal actions to detect cancer (e.g., BSE, GSE).
Tertiary Prevention (Limiting Further Harm and Disability)
All types of rehabilitation (e.g., cardiac rehab, PT, OT, speech therapy, addiction/
drug rehab).
Support groups (e.g., breast cancer patients, alcoholics with Alcoholics Anonymous).
Exercise for an obese person (if the person is healthy, then it is primary prevention).
Patient Education
Self-management of disease (e.g., insulin self-injection, dietary education).
Medications (e.g., drugfood interactions, side effects).
Equipment safety (e.g., how to use wheelchairs/cane).