Can Prevention Classification be Improved by Considering the Function of Prevention?
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Universal, selective and indicated forms of prevention have been adopted as improvements on previous notions of primary and secondary prevention. However, some conceptual confusion remains concerning the placing of environmental, community-based or mass media preventive interventions within this typology. It is suggested that a new dimension of functional types of prevention, namely environmental, developmental and informational prevention should be specified alongside the forms of prevention in a taxonomy matrix. The main advantage of this new taxonomy is that a matrix combining the form and function dimensions of prevention can be used to identify and map out prevention strategies, to consider where research evidence is present and where more is needed, and to evaluate the relative effectiveness of different categories and components of prevention for specific health and social issues. Such evaluations would provide empirical evidence as to whether the different categories of prevention are related to outcomes or processes of prevention in ways that suggest the value of the taxonomy for understanding and increasing the impact of prevention science. This new prevention taxonomy has been useful for conceptualising and planning prevention activities in a case study involving the Swedish National Institute for Public Health. Future work should assess (1) the robustness of this new taxonomy and (2) the theoretical and empirical basis for profiling prevention investments across the various forms and functions of prevention.
KeywordsPrevention Classification Taxonomy
The author is grateful to Thomas Jacobsson, Public Health Planning Officer at the Swedish National Institute for Public Health, for providing the case study described in this article, and for commenting on an early draft.
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