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Public Health Nursing Practice Manual

Prevention occurs at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels:

Primary prevention both promotes health and protects against threats to health. It keeps problems from occurring in the first place. It promotes resiliency and protective factors or reduces susceptibility and exposure to risk factors. Primary prevention is implemented before a problem develops. It targets essentially well populations.

Secondary prevention detects and treats problems in their early stages. It keeps problems from causing serious or long-term effects or from affecting others. It identifies risks or hazards and modifies, removes, or treats them before a problem becomes more serious. Secondary prevention is implemented after a problem has begun, but before signs and symptoms appear. It targets populations that have risk factors in common.

Tertiary prevention limits further negative effects from a problem. It keeps existing problems from getting worse. It alleviates the effects of disease and injury and restores individuals to their optimal level of functioning. Tertiary prevention is implemented after a disease or injury has occurred. It targets populations who have experienced disease or injury.


Minnesota Department of Health, Public Health Nursing Section. (2000). Public Health Nursing Practice for the 21st Century: National Satellite Learning Conference; Competency Development in Population-based Practice October 5, November 2, December 7, 2000. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Health, Public Health Nursing Section. Retrieved May 7, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/phn/material.htm

1Turnock, B. (1997). Public Health: What it is and how it works. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

© 2007 LAC DPH - Public Health Nursing

A 12

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