Prevention requires a coordinated programme

On the basis of the aetiologies defined according to the timing principle, it is possible to search for epidemiological, psychological, sociological, and other explanations to answer the question of why some causes are more common in certain populations or subgroups than in others. The starting point of prevention is knowledge of causation and identification of factors that subject individuals to these causes. With better understanding of the causes of mental retardation, attitudes towards it change. With knowledge, individuals needing support can be identified earlier, their development and life made easier, and the burden of care on the family lightened.

Public policy, education, public health, obstetric services, neonatal intensive care, general practice services, etc. have an important role in reducing and avoiding risk factors. Education, planning of a safe environment, and alleviation of poverty have a general preventive effect on predisposing factors. The preventive aspects should be taken into account in all general and specific legislation, in operating procedures, and professional practice. Because multiple agencies are involved preventive measures need to be co-ordinated at both local and national levels.

The day-to-day prevention of infections, accidents in the home and traffic, exposure to toxic substances, drowning accidents, malnutrition, or child abuse is both a general and a multiprofessional task. Parents and educators should transfer their wisdom and experience to the next generation so that they will make better choices and avoid risks.

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