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What is Preventive Medicine?

Preventive Medicine is the specialty of medical practice that focuses on the health of individuals, communities, and defined populations. Its goal is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and death. Preventive medicine specialists have core competencies in biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental and occupational medicine, planning and evaluation of health services, management of health care organizations, research into causes of disease and injury in population groups, and the practice of prevention in clinical medicine. They apply knowledge and skills gained from the medical, social, economic, and behavioral sciences. Preventive medicine has three specialty areas with common core knowledge, skills, and competencies that emphasize different populations, environments, or practice settings: aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, and public health and general preventive medicine.

Aerospace Medicine

Aerospace medicine focuses on the clinical care, research, and operational support of the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers and passengers of air and space vehicles, together with the support personnel who assist operation of such vehicles. This population often works and lives in remote, isolated, extreme, or enclosed environments under conditions of physical and psychological stress. Practitioners strive for an optimal human-machine match in occupational settings rich with environmental hazards and engineering countermeasures.

Occupational Medicine

Occupational medicine focuses on the health of workers, including the ability to perform work; the physical, chemical, biological, and social environments of the workplace; and the health outcomes of environmental exposures. Practitioners in this field address the promotion of health in the work place, and the prevention and management of occupational and environmental injury, illness, and disability.

Public Health and General Preventive Medicine

Public health and general preventive medicine focuses on promoting health, preventing disease, and managing the health of communities and defined populations. These practitioners combine population-based public health skills with knowledge of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention-oriented clinical practice in a wide variety of settings.

Purpose of the Board

The purpose of the American Board of Preventive Medicine is::

  1. To grant and issue, to qualified physicians who are licensed to practice medicine, certificates of special knowledge in Preventive Medicine and in one of the specialty areas of Aerospace Medicine, Occupational Medicine or Public Health and General Preventive Medicine or in one of the subspecialties of Medical Toxicology or Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine; and

  2. To encourage the study, enhance the standards of practice, and advance the cause of Preventive Medicine.

History of the Board

The American Board of Preventive Medicine, Incorporated (ABPM) is a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties. ABPM originated from recommendations of a joint committee comprised of representatives from the Section of Preventive and Industrial Medicine and Public Health of the American Medical Association and the Committee on Professional Education of the American Public Health Association. The Board was incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware on June 29, 1948 as "The American Board of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Incorporated."

In 1952 the name was changed to The American Board of Preventive Medicine, Incorporated. In February 1953 the Advisory Board of Medical Specialties and the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association authorized certification by the Board of preventive medicine specialists in Aviation Medicine (the name was changed to Aerospace Medicine in 1963); in June 1955, preventive medicine specialists in Occupational Medicine; in November 1960, preventive medicine specialists in General Preventive Medicine; and in 1983, Public Health and General Preventive Medicine were combined into one specialty area of certification. In 1989 the American Board of Preventive Medicine was approved to offer a subspecialty certificate in Undersea Medicine (the name was changed to Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine in 1999), in 1992 a subspecialty certificate in Medical Toxicology, and in 2010 a subspecialty certificate in Clinical Informatics.

The Board is a non-profit corporation, and no member (officer or director) may receive any salary or compensation for services. The Board consists of members nominated by the organizations listed below:

  • Aerospace Medical Association
  • American Association of Public Health Physicians
  • American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • American College of Preventive Medicine
  • American Medical Association
  • Directors of the American Board of Preventive Medicine