A branch of medical science directed towards promoting health by preventing the body from diseases is known as preventive medicine. It is concerned with the avoidance or early detection of the disease rather than the supervision of the disease. The concept of preventive medicine is not a recent one but has been a matter of deep concern for centuries. Ever since people began to realize the importance of health and a healthy environment, they began to realize the importance of preventive medicine. The preventive medicine discovered that cleaning up of the sewer system along with the clean drinking water was most crucial step towards preventing the outbreak of diseases than seeking help of all the doctors and medicines of the world.
Preventive medicines do not aim at preventing diseases by the use of medicines alone, but it lays emphasis on other aspects of health like providing vaccination, healthy and clean food, clean drinking water, awareness towards general health, pest control and a hygienic environment all over the world. Moreover, seminars and other programs like consultation with dietitians are organized for parents for guiding them regarding child’s diet, health, fitness and physical activities. Special attention is laid towards the use of fresh fruits and vegetables for preventing the child from obesity. In order to remain in good health, people must be able to adapt themselves swiftly and quickly to the changing environments like change in seasons, change in place of work or home, income reduction, etc. Health is also affected due to improper diet, lack of exercise, educational weakness and severe climatic conditions.
We can divide the preventive medicines under two categories. The first one is the active medicine which includes measures like use of boiled water for drinking, mosquito repellents, seatbelts and helmets while driving, and other protective measures exercised by an individual for his protection. The second one is the passive medicine that comprises of chlorination of the water, iodination of the salt, pasteurization of milk, controlling pollution of the water and air, providing safe electrical and other devices which aim at providing prevention at universal level.
On comparison of Eastern and Western attitude towards the preventive medicines; we find that in the Eastern and developing countries the health professionals focus on improving hygiene, educating people, providing vaccination and keeping cleanliness in the surroundings for preventing outbreaks of diseases. While the Western countries, in addition to these steps also aim towards carrying out immense research and development in the direction of preventive medicines and keeping at alert a trained epidemiology team in case of any epidemic. In Europe and United States, physicians can focus on both, their medical degree and preventive measures at the same time. They have freedom to use their school education and work towards bringing a quality improvement in the health of people and reducing the outbreak of an epidemic. In these continents monitoring of food is given equal importance in the preventive medicines. The Eastern style of keeping the body fit includes usage of massage, psychotherapy, dietary changes and herbal regimens. Similarly, those who practise traditional Chinese medicine and other similar disciplines lay emphasis on keeping the body healthy, happy and balanced with the assistance of their parents. Now, with the rise in obesity and other problems even the Western countries have turned their attention towards these preventive measures, although at a slower pace.
Until the 20th century, the steps taken in the direction of preventive medicine were quite insignificant. The formation of disease prevention centers like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and similar others centers by many governments proved helpful in this direction. The aims of these centers are to improve hygiene and during an epidemic to evoke quick responses and help minimize the spread of diseases. These institutions work along with psychologists, sociologists and economist in order to assist people from different sections and social groups of the society and educate them regarding diseases and the preventive measures available. Although, they focus their attention all over the world but they give extra attention towards those who are prone to risk of contracting dangerous disease than others and those who belong to weaker sections of the society.
There have been certain disadvantages of treating patients with preventive medicines. They are sometimes criticized for taking into consideration the presumed circumstances and hence providing an asymptomatic person with instructions and treatment for remaining healthy. For instance, healthy postmenopausal women were given progestin along with estrogen to prevent them from cardiovascular diseases. But the research in this direction proved that these women actually became more prone to cardiovascular diseases than those who were not treated with progestin and estrogen. So, it was decided to halt this approach of treatment immediately. Another worrisome fact regarding preventive medicine is that some physicians place their private profits above the public health and are ready to compromise on the health of the person for their own good. They misguide the patients and even use invalidated preventive exercises and measures.
These drawbacks of preventive medicines have not lowered their faith and appreciation. Occasionally a patient may demonstrate disregard towards them. But we cannot deny the fact that preventive medicines are helpful and reliable (with a few exceptions). They can help us in achieving our target of ‘always healthy’. The basic aim of all preventive medicine is to make human life healthier and happier.