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Defining Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Health promotion and disease prevention programs focus on keeping people healthy. Health promotion engages and empowers individuals and communities to engage in healthy behaviors, and make changes that reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and other morbidities. Defined by the World Health Organization, health promotion is:

“The process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.”

Disease prevention focuses on prevention strategies to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and other morbidities.

Health promotion and disease prevention programs often address social determinants of health, which influence modifiable risk behaviors. Social determinants of health are the economic, social, cultural, and political conditions in which people are born, grow, and live that affect health status. Modifiable risk behaviors include, for example, tobacco use, poor eating habits, and lack of physical activity, which contribute to the development of chronic disease. Typical activities for health promotion and disease prevention programs include:

  • Communication: Raising awareness about healthy behaviors for the general public. Examples of communication strategies include public service announcements, health fairs, mass media campaigns, and newsletters.
  • Education: Empowering behavior change and actions through increased knowledge. Examples of health education strategies include courses, trainings, and support groups.
  • Policy: Regulating or mandating activities by organizations or public agencies that encourage healthy decision-making.
  • Environment: Changing structures or environments to make healthy decisions more readily available to large populations.

Health promotion and disease prevention program models are provided in Module 2.

Resources to Learn More

Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Website
Provides information, statistics, tools, and resources related to health promotion and disease prevention program planning.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Website
The website includes examples of health promotion and disease prevention programs in rural areas.
Organization(s): Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Milestones in Health Promotion: Statement from Global Conferences
Document
This publication provides information on the global definition of health promotion and various actions that can help support and improve health outcomes.
Organization(s): World Health Organization
Date: 2009

National Prevention Strategy: America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness
Website
This website provides information on the National Prevention Strategy – a comprehensive plan with evidence-based recommendations for building healthy and safe environments, expanding access to quality care, empowering people to make healthier choices, and eliminating health disparities.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Power of Prevention: Chronic Disease...the Public Health Challenge of the 21st Century
Document
A publication covering chronic diseases, their causes, and their costs. Recommends strategies and actions for improving well-being, reducing health disparities, promoting policy, translation of research, and workforce development.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 2009