Preventive medicine is, in broad terms, medical care that keeps people healthy. So in a sense, all doctors practice preventive medicine. However, it is also a recognized medical specialty that promotes well-being for communities and populations. Preventive medicine specialists study the conditions and behaviors (such as obesity or smoking) that cause disease. They may make policy decisions (such as on food safety or seatbelt use) that help keep communities safe. Treating a population as a whole, they work to promote health and prevent sickness or death.
There are three main subspecialties within preventive medicine. They are:
Aerospace Medicine: Often applied in a military setting, these physicians care for crew and passengers in air or space vehicles.
Occupational Medicine: These specialists protect safe workplaces and the health of people at work.
Public Health: These specialists promote health within larger communities, for example by educating the public about chronic illness, or promoting vaccinations.
Some preventive medicine specialists work ‘on the ground,’ seeing and treating patients. Others work in government or organization offices. Wherever they are, preventive medicine specialists must have a wide medical knowledge base, including infectious disease, occupational health, health care management, epidemiology, and others.
Preventive medicine works towards the goal of ensuring that all members of society have the opportunity to lead a safe and healthy life.