Definition of Disease Prevention

Disease PreventionDisease prevention covers measures not only to prevent the occurrence of disease, such as risk factor reduction, but also to arrest its progress and reduce its consequences once established.

Reference: adapted from Glossary of Terms used in Health for All series. WHO, Geneva, 1984

Primary prevention is directed towards preventing the initial occurrence of a disorder. Secondary and tertiary prevention seeks to arrest or retard existing disease and its effects through early detection and appropriate treatment; or to reduce the occurrence of relapses and the establishment of chronic conditions through, for example, effective rehabilitation.

Disease prevention is sometimes used as a complementary term alongside health promotion. Although there is frequent overlap between the content and strategies, disease prevention is defined separately. Disease prevention in this context is considered to be action which usually emanates from the health sector, dealing with individuals and populations identified as exhibiting identifiable risk factors, often associated with different risk behaviors.