Primary prevention consists of “health promotion” and “specific protection.” Health promotion activities are non-clinical life choices, for example, eating nutritious meals and exercising daily, that both prevent disease and create a sense of overall well-being. Preventing disease and creating overall well-being, prolongs our life expectancy.Health-promotional activities do not target a specific disease or condition but rather promote health and well-being on a very general level. On the other hand, specific protection targets a type or group of diseases and complements the goals of health promotion. In the case of a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis health promotion activities would include avoiding microorganisms by maintaining personal hygiene, routine check-up appointments with the doctor, general sex education, etc. whereas specific protective measures would be using prophylactics (such as condoms) during sex and avoiding sexual promiscuity.
Food is very much the most basic tool in preventive health care. The 2011 National Health Interview Survey performed by the Centers for Disease Control was the first national survey to include questions about ability to pay for food. Difficulty with paying for food, medicine, or both is a problem facing 1 out of 3 Americans. If better food options were available through food banks, soup kitchens, and other resources for low-income people, obesity and the chronic conditions that come along with it would be better controlled. A “food desert” is an area with restricted access to healthy foods due to a lack of supermarkets within a reasonable distance. These are often low-income neighborhoods with the majority of residents lacking transportation. There have been several grassroots movements in the past 20 years to encourage urban gardening, such as the GreenThumb organization in New York City. Urban gardening uses vacant lots to grow food for a neighborhood and is cultivated by the local residents. Mobile fresh markets are another resource for residents in a “food desert”, which are specially outfitted buses bringing affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income neighborhoods. These programs often hold educational events as well such as cooking and nutrition guidance. Programs such as these are helping to provide healthy, affordable foods to the people who need them the most.
Scientific advancements in genetics have significantly contributed to the knowledge of hereditary diseases and have facilitated great progress in specific protective measures in individuals who are carriers of a disease gene or have an increased predisposition to a specific disease. Genetic testing has allowed physicians to make quicker and more accurate diagnoses and has allowed for tailored treatments or personalized medicine. Similarly, specific protective measures such as water purification, sewage treatment, and the development of personal hygienic routines (such as regular hand-washing) became mainstream upon the discovery of infectious disease agents such as bacteria. These discoveries have been instrumental in decreasing the rates of communicable diseases that are often spread in unsanitary conditions.
Finally, a separate category of health promotion par excellence has been propounded. It is based on the ‘new knowledge’ in molecular biology; in particular, on epigenetic knowledge, which points to how much affective – as well as physical – environment during foetal and newborn life may determine each and every aspect of adult health;.This new way of promoting health is commonly called primal prevention. It consists mainly in providing future parents with pertinent, unbiased information on primal health and supporting them during their child’s primal period of life (i.e., “from conception to first anniversary” according to definition by the Primal Health Research Centre, London). This includes adequate parental leave – ideally for both parents – with kin caregiving and financial help where needed.