What is Preventive Care?
Preventative medicine is a specialty of medicine practiced by physicians devoted to health promotion and disease prevention. Physicians with expertise in preventative medicine are typically interested in health problems that have a significant impact on specific populations, such as those with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a highly prevalent condition. Conversely, a disease may become the focus of preventative medicine despite its low prevalence because it causes significant illness, disability, and death (e.g., a disease with a high case-fatality rate such as infection with the Ebola virus). Other health problems important to preventative medicine are those that disproportionately affect one narrow segment of a population, such as unintended pregnancies among urban adolescents.
Adult Preventive Care
Physicians who practice preventative medicine may work with individual patients in the delivery of clinical preventative services, or they may serve a defined population. In either case, the goal is to reduce the risk factors of the patient or the population that contribute to premature morbidity and mortality. Traditionally, in the United States, the medical and public health communities have assessed the diseases that cause the most mortality and have intervened to reduce their impact. Heart disease and cancers of all types remain leading causes of premature mortality. Recently, the emphasis has shifted from concentrating on diseases that are highly prevalent to a focus on the actual behaviors that cause these conditions. By approaching threats to good health in this way, behaviors such as smoking, unsafe sexual practices, dietary habits, and lack of exercise emerge as vitally important in determining disease or its absence. Preventive medicine physicians embrace this approach to shape intervention strategies to target behaviors that cause disease.
About Primary Care
Primary care is medical care delivered with the patient and the community first in mind and is traditionally the point of ‘first contact’ for the patient when a medical illness, issue or concern arises. Primary care not only treats the patient when they are ill, but works with the patient when they are healthy to establish strong health maintenance skills by practicing disease prevention and health education.
Having a primary care provider (PCP), is a key part of living a healthy life. He or she can focus on your total health and work with other doctors to make sure you get the care you need. Although a PCP is often a doctor (MD or DO), he or she may also be a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or a Physician Assistant (PA).
Your PCP keeps your medical records, which show your history of care. That means he or she knows when you get things like your flu shot, tests or if you’re taking medicines. That way, he or she can help you better when you’re sick. It can also help your PCP work with you to stay healthy over time.
Be sure to talk to your PCP about any problems you have when you’re sick or hurt. That way, your PCP can give you the best care. During your visit, he or she may ask you questions like:
When did you first feel or see signs you weren’t feeling well or were hurt?
What makes it better or worse?
Has anyone in your family ever had anything like this?
It can be hard to remember things when you don’t feel well. If you need help, have a friend or family member go with you. Taking notes on what your PCP says can also help you make sure you know exactly what he or she wants you to do to take care of yourself.