With the growing prevalence of preventive medicine in the medical field more broadly, it’s as important for patients to understand disease prevention and health promotion as it is for physicians. For instance, you might recognize epidemiology, biostatistics, and the intricacies of preventive therapies as ways to improve individual quality of life and overall public health more greatly. However, you might not know just how pervasive this field is beyond its health outcomes.
As recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and defined by the American College of Preventive Medicine, preventive medicine is the focus on individual and community health with the goals of promoting health and well-being while preventing disease, disability, and death.
Within the overarching field of preventive medicine, there are several categories, including the most prevalent: public health and general preventive medicine. Preventive medicine physicians and practitioners support health systems and work to prevent health crises on both individual and societal levels. This area of health care includes primary care physicians, as well as those working in public health and government agencies, all of whom work to promote good health and better health services.
Health professionals specializing in preventive medicine might work in clinical care or in primary care provider roles, but they may otherwise work in non-clinical settings. Other elements of preventive medicine include biostatistics and epidemiology. Or, these specialists might work within health services administration or management or with organizations that control environmental or occupational factors that impact public health. Still, others might work on an even broader level, targeting societal or cultural influences that affect public health.
Be they health care providers, government employees, or those working in related industries, each of these individuals is working toward common goals: bettering public health and health systems. From public policy to disease control and prevention, each individual aims to advance the broader field of preventive medicine.
The field of preventive medicine is wide-reaching, but it can be just as crucial an element, if not even more so, in the health of individuals. For patients, preventive measures come in many forms. Of course, the benefits of each division of preventive medicine impact patient care through improved outcomes and reduced mortality and morbidity.
In practice, patients may recognize preventive measures through examples such as vaccines, testing and screenings, and patient education and advisory. For example, you might undergo childhood immunizations and cancer screenings or go through counseling to treat alcohol or substance abuse. Even your annual vision screening qualifies as a type of preventive treatment!
We’ve answered two essential questions: what is preventive medicine and who practices it? However, you inevitably have further questions about preventive care. Resources like the American Journal of Preventive Medicine will offer insights into preventive therapy, the role of public health departments in the field, and how it impacts the quality of life of individuals. Each bit of new knowledge you come across can introduce you to a new facet of the field of preventive medicine and how it can transform the health care system for the better.