ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Levels of Disease, Illness, and Accident Prevention

Updated on December 30, 2012

Normally, we think of disease prevention as steps taken before the illness begins. But, actually, there are three levels of prevention and treatment medical staff undertake:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Tertiary

Primary prevention includes eating healthy food.
Primary prevention includes eating healthy food. | Source

Primary Prevention

These are actions taken before a disease or accident occurs in an effort to prevent it. Examples are:

Secondary Prevention

These are actions taken early in the process of an illness. For instance, if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, the illness is identified, treated (regular testing, monitoring, taking prescribed medications), and (hopefully) lifestyle changes (dietary and exercise-related) are made.

Tertiary Treatment

Once a disease has progressed, tertiary treatment seeks to contain or regress the problem. For example, in the case of cancer, experts may administer radiation and chemotherapy in an attempt to return the patient to a complete or relative state of health.

Although tertiary treatments are more expensive than primary and secondary prevention, we tend to be more highly motivated to comply with tertiary treatments since the results are more immediate and obvious.

The lack of immediate repercussions can encourage risky behavior.
The lack of immediate repercussions can encourage risky behavior. | Source

Why Primary and Secondary Prevention are Only Marginally Successful

  • Doctors and other health care providers traditionally spend more patient time, effort, and education on tertiary treatments.
  • During the period of our lives when we're developing independent health habits (teen to early adulthood), smoking, eating high fat diets, and avoiding exercise can be enjoyable, and the effects are not immediately obvious to our health and appearance. So, we have no incentive to correct poor health habits. These habits can become entrenched and harder to break in years to come.
  • High-risk sexual behavior is an example of how delayed visible consequences delay intervention. Within 3-6 weeks of contracting HIV, the only results noticed may be slight cold-like symptoms. But, the incubation period can last up to 20 years. The lack of immediate visible repercussions of the disease provides no incentive to give up the risky behavior.

Proponents of family and community-based education aimed at primary and secondary prevention have received mixed results.

Health Care is Changing

. . . in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. Some insurance companies are placing severe restrictions on approved doctors, procedures, testing, and reimbursement for other charges.

But, some insurance companies (example: Kaiser Permanente) realize that prevention, after all is said and done, is less expensive than tertiary care, taking time and money restrictions out of the pursuit of good health. Most doctors will readily admit that it takes much more time to discuss and maintain preventative health to patients (primary prevention) than prescribing a pill for the symptoms of an existing ailment (tertiary treatment).

One exemplary philosophy of a preventative physician, Dr. Neil Singer, M.D., as he approaches his patients in the following way, is described on his website: Primary prevention in my practice involves everything possible to keep every patient as healthy as possible and in either preventing disease in the first place or delaying the progression of already established disease. This involves, among other things, obtaining an extensive medical history, ordering extensive and advanced blood work, having patients complete extensive questionnaires on a variety of subjects, performing screening examinations in the office, doing a complete physical exam and discussing the results of that exam and the blood work, discussing strategies to avoid disease, and mailing out a summary of my findings to the patients. The above is performed every year on every patient in my practice. It is only is this manner that primary prevention can be truly practiced.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • nanderson500 profile image


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Very interesting. Definitely important to work at all three levels. Definitely a great observation about how many of people's health habits begin in their teens.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)