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Preventive medicine or preventive care is measures taken to prevent illness or injury, rather than curing them. It can be contrasted not only with curative medicine, but also with public health methods (which work at the level of population health rather than individual health).

Preventive care may include examinations and screening tests tailored to an individual's age, health, and family history. For example, a person with a family history of certain cancers or other diseases would being screening at an earlier age and/or more frequently than those with no family history.

As a medical specialty

In the United States, preventive medicine is a medical specialty, one of the 24 recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). It encompasses three areas of specialization:

  • General preventive medicine and public health
  • Aerospace medicine
  • Occupational medicine

In order to become board-certified in one of the preventive medicine areas of specialization, a licensed U.S. physician (M.D. or D.O.) must successfully complete a preventive medicine medical residency program following a one year internship. Following that, the physician must complete a year of practice in that special area and pass the preventive medicine board examination. The residency program is at least two years in length, and includes completion of a post-graduate masters degree in public health (MPH) or equivalent. The board exam takes an entire day: The morning session concentrates on general preventive medicine questions. The afternoon session concentrates on the one of the three areas of specialization that the applicant has studied.

In addition, there are two subspecialty areas of certification:

  • Medical toxicology (MT)
  • Undersea and hyperbaric medicine (UHB), formerly "undersea medicine"

These certifications require sitting for an examination following successful completion of an MT or UHB fellowship and prior board certification in one of the 24 ABMS-recognized specialties.

Rose's theorem

Rose's Theorem states that "a large number of people at small risk may give rise to more cases of disease than a small number who are at high risk."[1]

Leading cause of preventable death

Leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States as of the year 2000.

Cause Number of deaths resulting

435,000 deaths or 18.1% of the total deaths

Overweight and Obesity

365,000 deaths or 15.2% of the total deaths.

Alcohol consumption

85,000 deaths or 3.5% of the total deaths.


75,000 deaths or 3.1% of the total deaths.

Toxic agents

55,000 deaths or 2.3% of the total deaths.

Motor vehicle collisions

43,000 deaths or 1.8% of the total deaths.

Incidents involving firearms

29,000 deaths or 1.2% of the total.

Sexually transmitted infections

20,000 deaths or 0.8% of the total.

Illicit use of drugs

17,000 deaths or 0.7% of the total deaths.


See also


  1. Rose, G.: The Strategy of Preventive Medicine. Oxford, England, Oxford University Press; 1992.
  2. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL (March 2004). Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA 291 (10): 1238–45.

External links

Template:Public health

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