Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Prevention: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

  • Linda C. BaumannEmail author
  • Alyssa Karel
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_135



The natural history of disease is the course from onset to resolution (Last, 2000). The goal of epidemiology is to identify and understand causal factors of disease, disability, and injury so that effective interventions can be implemented to prevent the occurrence of adverse processes before they begin or progress (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008). The definitions used in public health distinguish between primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention (Commission on Chronic Illness, 1957).


The term “primary prevention” refers to intervention measures to prevent the occurrence (incidence) of new disease, disability, or injury (Leavell & Clark, 1965). This intervention must be implemented prepathogenesis and directed at individuals or groups at risk. Primary prevention efforts include health promotion and specific protection and are generally aimed at populations, not individuals (see Fig.  1). The application of...
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References and Readings

  1. Commission on Chronic Illness. (1957). Chronic illness in the United States (Vol. 1). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Institute of Medicine. (1994). Reducing risks for mental disorders. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  3. Last, J. M. (2000). A dictionary of epidemiology (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Leavell, H. R., & Clark, E. G. (1965). Preventive medicine for the doctor in his community (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  5. Stanhope, M. & Lancaster, J. (2008). Public health nursing: Population-centered health care in the community (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA