Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Consumer Behavior in the Health Marketplace: A Symposium Proceedings, Ian M. Newman, Editor, Nebraska Center for Health Education & University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1976.


My interest is epidemiology and preventive medicine. Epidemiology is the study of disease distributions in man. Preventive medicine is the attempt to avoid acquiring the risk factors of diseases by individuals, which can be called "primary prevention." Also it is the attempt to avoid development of diseases among those who have risk factors, and that is known as secondary prevention. Quite clearly there is much concern about epidemiology as the basis for preventive medicine and about preventive medicine as a potentially cheaper and easier way to provide quality medicine. Health education is a clear dimension of preventive medicine.

We have started to define epidemiology and we have started to define preventive medicine. Before we go any further, I want to tell you what these things really are in a way you will remember. I want you to imagine there are three kinds of people who come upon a scene where there are folks floating down a river, drowning. There is one kind of guy that comes on this scene, rips off his coat and pants, swims out and saves somebody, struggles back to shore, goes back out, saves somebody else, keeps that up until he is exhausted. There is another guy who comes on this scene and says, "Boy, is he wasting his time." He goes back in the woods and maybe an occasional fellows goes by in the meantime, but he gets big logs and throws them in, so he saves several people at a time. Then there is the third sort of individual who goes up river to see who is throwing people in the water. That is an epidemiologist and what he does, if he's bigger than the guy throwing them in, is called preventive medicine. I learned this when I became a preventive medicine officer in the army, but when I came to the University of Missouri, I discovered that there was another person that the Army did not know about. There is a fourth individual who comes upon the scene and goes into the woods and immediately starts doing research on how to grow a bigger tree!