What is Disease Prevention?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Disease prevention is a branch of medicine that focuses on helping people avoid contracting diseases, both in individuals and communities. A number of branches of science and medicine are intertwined in this medical discipline, ranging from anthropology, to the study of cultural practices that could promote the spread of disease, to epidemiology, the identification and study of disease. Many nations have prevention programs in their national health framework, since it benefits society as a whole.

Vaccinations are used for disease prevention.
Vaccinations are used for disease prevention.

Humans have been struggling with disease for thousands of years, and the problem only became more pronounced when people began living in closely crowded areas. As cities grew, so did the diversity of disease, along with a variety of colorful attempts at preventing it. Not until the 1800s did people really begin to understand the process of disease, and start to take steps to prevent its spread and to promote healthy communities, ranging from washing hands between patients to pasteurizing dairy products.

Scientific research in labs plays a major role in understanding diseases and how they can be prevented.
Scientific research in labs plays a major role in understanding diseases and how they can be prevented.

Different nations have reached different levels in their disease prevention strategies. In developed countries, for example, basic steps like sanitizing drinking water, providing clean living conditions, and using widespread vaccination programs have proved to be very effective at preventing certain illnesses in communities at large, leaving medical professionals to focus primarily on individual patients. In the developing world, however, medical professionals are still struggling with the basic elements of preventing disease, ranging from encouraging the modification of cultural values to reduce the spread of disease to attempting to provide basic medical care.

Contaminated water can easily spread microoganisms that cause infection disease.
Contaminated water can easily spread microoganisms that cause infection disease.

In communities, disease prevention is usually focused on providing clean living conditions and promoting education so that people understand the mechanisms by which they get sick. Sewer systems, water purification plants, health codes, and the establishment of sterile hospital facilities are all examples of infrastructure which is designed to prevent diseases from spreading. Many nations also have community education programs, such as HIV/AIDS education, that tell citizens about how diseases spread. This two-pronged approach reduces the risk of disease by eliminating conditions in which it can thrive.

When it's not possible to wash hands with soap and water, hand sanitizer should be used to prevent diseases.
When it's not possible to wash hands with soap and water, hand sanitizer should be used to prevent diseases.

For individuals, disease prevention can include the use of vaccination and prophylactic medications, and the identification of risk factors that could make someone more prone to contracting an illness. General wellness may also be promoted, as healthy individuals with strong bodies are less likely to contract disease.

Disease prevention also includes work in scientific institutions and laboratories. Scientists work to identify diseases and to learn more about how they are transmitted and how they can be treated and prevented. The development of things like diagnostic screenings for early signs of cancer has been a major part of this work around the world, as has the focus on identifying at-risk individuals and reaching out to them.

Washing hands can aid in disease prevention.
Washing hands can aid in disease prevention.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Latte31-A friend of mine developed Lyme disease. Her doctor told her that in the future, in order to fully engage in Lyme disease prevention, she should stay away from tall grassy areas especially at night.

This is where you are most likely to contact this disease.


Greenweaver-I agree that infectious disease prevention involves washing your hands, but you also must let the office of disease prevention no that you've been in contact with communicable disease meningitis.

This type of disease is very contagious and can be fatal. There's viral and bacterial meningitis which are sometimes spread to very close contact with people. Often schools and college dorms are the most common places to pick up this disease.

I do believe there is a vaccination against this disease so it is possible to prevent.


Comfyshoes-I think sometimes people that have one chronic health condition are at risk of developing another.

For example if you are seeking primary disease prevention from diabetes, you may also have to seek secondary disease prevention for heart disease.

Many diabetics also develop heart conditions so it is important that if you do have diabetes but you also do things to prevent heart disease as well because you're very susceptible to this condition.


Subway11-Chronic disease prevention involves a healthy diet and exercise. Most diseases can be prevented by simply keeping a healthy weight and performing at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.

Most people that have lost weight over time have been able to give up a lot of their medications to treat some of the diseases.

A healthy lifestyle will allow you to have fewer interventions that you will need in order to be healthy.

For example, many people as they get older and develop a weight problem and often develop high blood pressure.

Weight Watchers has done a study that many of their members with previous health ailments like this have been able to be taken off their medication due to their weight loss. This adds to one's quality of life and makes you feel more in control.


Suntan12- Many diseases are passed to others through handshakes. Also, if a person sneezes, their germs can travel through a 6 mile radius, so you can still be infected. Covering your nose when you sneeze is the best prevention.

It is important to have hand sanitizer around and wash your hands after using the restroom, before and after you eat, after sneezing, or when you shake hands with another person.

Usually when I come home from church I wash my hands because in church you shake hands with people. I use this just as a precaution so that I don't develop a cold or flu.


SauteePan-I agree that eating a healthy diet definitely lowers the risk of heart disease.

Exercise also tends to lower your blood pressure which helps your heart become more efficient. It also lowers your resting heart rate which strengthens your heart and makes it work better.

What is also important in order to participate in communicable disease prevention is making sure you wash your hands constantly.


Heart disease prevention involves eating healthy foods and doing daily exercise. Those foods rich in fiber and antioxidants are very good for the heart.

Fruits and vegetables with bright colors offer the most benefits. It is best to stay away from foods rich in fact especially saturated fat.

Saturated fat along with Tran’s fats and hydrogenated oils tend to block the arteries.

This leads to a condition called atherosclerosis which eventually leads to heart disease and heart attack because the blood is not circulating through the body because the arteries are blocked.

Eating a healthy diet and performing daily exercise is really a way to participate in primary disease prevention as well as secondary disease prevention by living a healthy lifestyle which helps to limit one's exposure to many diseases.

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