Preventative healthcare is the medical discipline related to the prevention of disease rather than it's treatment. It can range from recommending lifestyle changes to the removal of body tissues that are likely to become cancerous. In most modern medical systems, physicians are encouraged to stress preventative healthcare to their patients rather than focusing solely on existing conditions.
The techniques generally used in preventative healthcare are:
- Identifying environmental factors that could lead to disease and recommending preventative measures, such as wearing a respirator in a factory.
- Identifying genetic predisposition to diseases and recommending pharmacotherapy or diligent follow up leading to early diagnosis and treatment
- Identifying exposure to disease causing agents and using vaccination or preventative medicine, such as the use of chloroquine in malaria prone areas.
- Identifying lifestyle choices ranging from a sedentary lifestyle to having firearms in the home.
One of the best examples is pre-natal care. Pregnant mothers who receive pre-natal care have a much better infant mortality rate, are more likely to carry a fetus to full term, and are more likely to survive childbirth as well. Moreover, the decreasing use of tobacco and encouraging more exercise and diet has led to longer lifespans.
Preventative measures often get more sophisticated as time goes on. In the past, cervical cancer was a common cause of death in women. However, with the development of the pap smear, a minimally-invasive test, the disease could be diagnosed and treated in almost all cases. At present, it is believed the widespread use of the numan papilloma virus vaccine could virtually eliminate the condition in anyone born after 2000.