Health promotion and disease prevention are processes that enable individuals to improve their health. Health promotion seeks to increase an individual’s control over their health by addressing behavior under the control of the individual. Disease prevention is associated with medical and public health activities to prevent diseases. Health promotion and disease prevention have been utilized in the U.S. health care system for many of years and extensive research has been done on which preventive measures are most likely to protect individual health. Studies have also been done on what degree can preventions contribute to controlling costs of health care. Research supports the effectiveness of the preventative measures such as immunization, some forms of screening, avoidance of a high-fat diet, regular moderate exercise, as well the avoidance or cessation of exposure to tobacco. But research has also shown that preventative measures increase, rather than reduce, health care costs. Research has shown that preventative interventions preserve function and extend lives. Studies have shown immunization to be a good example of a prevention that promotes individual health and longevity. The benefits of immunization can been seen in young people and in the elderly. For decades the elderly have been receiving vaccination against influenza and it is also commonplace for young children to receive inoculations for diptheria, tentanus, pertussis, polio, meningitis-causing Haemophilus influenzae, measles, mups, rubells, and hepatitis B.1
A study from the Netherlands demonstrates the health benefits of the elderly receiving annual influenza vaccination. The findings from the study were that the those who received annual vaccination experienced a reduced mortality risk of 24 percent and it was estimated that the vaccination prevented one death for every 302 people vaccinated. 1 Immunization has also eradicated diseases that once threaten the lives of children in the U.S., as illustrated by the history of the disease pertussis. Between 1934 and 1943 there were on average 200,000 annual incidence of the disease, including over 4,000 deaths. After the introduction of childhood vaccination for pertussis in the 1940’s, reported cases drastically declined and reached a low of 1,000 in 1976.1
Research has also shown that some types of screening are good examples of preventative measures that effectively protect individuals. Screening is a strategy used to detect a disease in individuals who are without signs or symptoms of that disease. Between the early 1970s and 2000, use of the Pap test decreased incidence and mortality from invasive cervical cancer by 40 percent in the U.S. 1 The screening is almost an ideal because it is inexpensive, convenient, effective in detection, and cervical cancer is highly curable when detected early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also strongly recommends screenings for colorectal cancer, high blood pressure, and Chlamydia infection. 1
As significant as disease prevention, health promotions in lifestyle and risk reduction in the areas of tobacco, body weight, diet and exercise have been shown in studies to protect individual health. The most important of these studies that show the benefit of lifestyle preventative practices are the Framingham Heart Study and the Nurses’ Health Study.
The Framingham Heart Study has been a main source of information regarding an individual’s attributes that lead to cardiovascular disease. The early findings of the study identified smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose intolerance as risk factors for heart disease.1 Before the study it was thought that heart disease may be unpredictable. Recently findings show that low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is a characteristic predictive of heart disease. The Framingham study had major implications on lifestyle in regards to physical activity and diet as preventative practices. It showed the...
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