3.3 Tertiary prevention strategies
Medical treatment to prevent the worst outcomes of a disease in an individual is known as tertiary prevention. Although this may greatly improve the quality of life for that person, it has at most a limited impact on the spread of infectious disease. For example, physical therapies that support the rehabilitation of children with paralytic polio are at the tertiary level of prevention, i.e. they can reduce the impact of paralysis on the child’s quality of life, but they have no impact whatsoever on the spread of polio virus in a community.
However, tertiary strategies contribute to public health in a more subtle way. By alleviating the pain, distress and disability experienced by individuals, the community as a whole benefits from the input these people are enabled to make to the ‘social capital’ of all (Figure 7).