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Defining Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Health promotion and disease prevention programs focus on keeping people healthy. Health promotion programs aim to engage and empower individuals and communities to choose 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 differs from health promotion because it focuses on specific efforts aimed at reducing the development and severity of chronic diseases and other morbidities.

Wellness is related to health promotion and disease prevention. Wellness is described as the attitudes and active decisions made by an individual that contribute to positive health behaviors and outcomes.

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, disease prevention, and wellness 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, Systems, and Environment: Making systematic changes – through improved laws, rules, and regulations (policy), functional organizational components (systems), and economic, social, or physical environment – to encourage, make available, and enable healthy choices.

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

Resources to Learn More

Chronic Disease in Rural America Topic Guide
Website
Provides information on the impact of chronic disease, strategies for helping chronic disease patients, and funding sources for chronic disease programs.
Organization(s): Rural Health Information Hub

National Center for 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

National Prevention Strategy: America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness
Document
This report 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
Date: 6/2011

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