Foundation of Prevention
There are constant efforts targeted at ensuring people are healthy. While public health prevention is an older field whose acceptance and practice has not been crippled by extensive doubt and questioning, the opposite has been the case for mental health prevention. The latter has however progressed and is presently more accepted and practiced. The two types of prevention share several similarities and differences.
Public health and mental health prevention and the strategies they used are similar in intention. They seek to manage public health and mental health problems at several levels/stages. They are both executed through activities that characterize primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. For example, public health prevention strategies for a disease such as HIV/AIDS would involve prevention of initial spread as part of primary prevention, prevention of re-infection among people who are already infected and reduction of its negative effects on those already infected by the virus. A good example of mental health prevention is elimination of stressing factors that cause mental illnesses such as environmental and social stressors, prevention of recurrence of stress after a patient exhibits stress symptoms and the management of mental illness through reducing its negative effects. The prevention strategies for both public and mental health problems therefore present intent and structural similarities to a great extent.
Both public and mental illnesses prevention are however different in a number of ways. First, the natures of noxious agents targeted for prevention are different. Public health prevention deals with noxious agents whose biological determinacy is clearer and tangible. Mental illness prevention on the other hand deals with more abstract noxious agents whose tangibility and quantifications remain elusive to a great extent. Its prognosis is therefore largely based on subjective observations. For example, prevention of polio as part of public health prevention is based on its paralytic effects on children and its biological effects plus the causative agent is highly perceivable. On the other hand, an ailment such as schizophrenia is intangible and its effects and diagnosis are solely dependent on the medical practitioner`s understanding of the presented situation.
The above point forms the basis for another difference which touches on the activities engaged in as part of prevention in public and mental health prevention. The former involves activities such as mass vaccination against illnesses such as measles and hepatitis and others, ensuring water hygiene through purification by chlorine and other purifiers and other ways of ensuring there is hygiene. The latter on the other hand involves managing, preventing and controlling social, environmental and some biological factors that lead to mental illnesses. For instance, patients who may suffer PTSD may be placed in environments with reduced stress and other current stressors may be eliminated. These are however more difficult to deal with and therefore public health prevention has registered higher success than mental health prevention. Furthermore, the etymologies of some mental disorders are unknown. Mental health prevention comprises different forms of treatment including psychosocial and pharmacological treatment or a combination of the two referred to as multimodal treatment. Psychosocial, humanistic, cognitive and behavioral therapies are used. The principles of prevention are therefore different in this case therefore leading to differences in prevention activities.
Gladding, S. T. & Newsome, D. W. (2003). Prevention. In Community and agency counseling. pp. 167 – 174. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishers.
Gladding, S. T., Newsome, Debbie W., (2004). Community and Agency Counseling. Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River: New Jersey.
Albee, G. W., & Ryan-Finn, K. D. (1993). An overview of primary prevention. Journal of Counseling & Development, 72(2), 115 – 123.
Foundation of Prevention