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prophylaxis (prōˌfĭlăkˈsĭs), measures designed to prevent the occurrence of disease or its dissemination. Some examples of prophylaxis are immunization against serious diseases such as smallpox or diphtheria; quarantine to confine communicable disease; public health measures to ensure the safety of food, milk, and water; the care of teeth to offset decay; and restrictions put on persons with such disorders as diabetes or heart disease to prevent the aggravation of these conditions.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in medicine, measures taken to foster health and prevent and eliminate the causes of disease in man. Individual prophylaxis involves observance of the rules of personal hygiene in everyday life and at work, while collective prophylaxis includes the system of health measures employed to protect the community. The concept of prophylaxis and the means of implementing it have changed in the course of history with changing social conditions, systems of government, and levels of scientific development.

Prophylaxis has its roots in antiquity, when prevention of disease based on observance of the rules of personal hygiene and a sound diet occupied an important place in medicine. However, a scientific foundation was not laid until the 19th century. The study of the environment’s role in the origin of disease, advances in epidemiology, hygiene, and physiology, and the wide dissemination of progressive socially oriented ideas in clinical medicine helped establish scientific prophylaxis. Progressive physicians and medical researchers in Russia and abroad believed that the future of medicine lay in the development of collective prophylaxis and in the unity of therapeutics and preventive medicine.

The modern concept of prophylaxis embraces a system of comprehensive state, social, and medical measures aimed at eliminating factors injurious to human health and ensuring full development of man’s physical and moral potential. Thus, in a broad sense prophylaxis denotes measures that create optimum conditions with respect to work, rest, housing, and physical culture, in order to foster health and increase longevity and work capacity. In medicine, prophylaxis denotes measures taken to prevent disease (for example, immunization), protect health, and prolong life.

The implementation of collective prophylaxis necessitates legislation, continuous and substantial expenditure, and the combined efforts of all branches of government, medical establishments, industry, construction, and agriculture. The socioeconomic conditions of capitalism restrict preventive measures to those considered necessary by the ruling class for safeguarding the health of hired workers; prophylaxis usually denotes only the measures taken to control certain, chiefly infectious, diseases. Despite the broadening of the concept of prophylaxis, therapeutics is still separated from preventive medicine in many capitalist countries.

Marxist works link revolutionary demands for improving working and living conditions to the political tasks of the working class. Issues relating to collective prophylaxis, including shorter working days, social insurance, health legislation, and improvement of working conditions, occupy an important place in the program documents of the communist and workers’ parties.

The program adopted by the Eighth Congress of the RCP(B) (1919) established the prophylactic aims of the Soviet public health system, which relies on state socioeconomic measures and on the work of public-health agencies and establishments. In the socialist countries, collective prophylaxis is the responsibility of the socialist society as a whole. Governmental measures taken to raise the material and cultural level of the population, shorten the working day, and improve working and living conditions are of great value. In the USSR, provisions for prophylaxis are made in the constitution of the USSR (arts. 118–122), in the Code of Labor Laws, and in sanitary legislation. The Basic Principles of the Legislation on Public Health of the USSR and the Union Republics (1969) consolidated those principles of organizing the USSR public-health system that are of importance for prophylaxis: “The health of the people of the USSR is protected by a system of socioeconomic, medical, and sanitary measures that is implemented by (1) broad health and prophylactic standards, with special concern for the health of the young; (2) the creation of proper hygienic conditions at work and at home, as well as elimination of the causes of industrial injuries, occupational diseases, and other factors injurious to health; (3) improvement of the environment and prevention of water, soil, and air pollution; (4) systematic expansion of the network of public-health facilities and enterprises of the medical industry; (5) free provision of all types of medical care, improvement in the quality and level of medical care, gradual broadening of the system of physical examinations in dispensaries, and development of specialized medical care; (6) free provision of therapeutic and diagnostic aids in the hospital, with a gradual increase in the provision of such aids free or at nominal cost for other types of medical care; (7) expansion of the network of sanatoriums, preventoria, houses of rest, resort hotels, tourist homes, and other facilities for the treatment and rest of workers; (8) physical and hygienic training of citizens and the development of mass programs for physical culture and sports; (9) development of sound principles of nutrition; and (10) the extensive involvement of social organizations and workers’ groups in health protection.”

Of paramount importance in the prophylactic sector of the Soviet public-health system is the work of the sanitary-epidemi-ological service, which carries out current and preventive state inspection of sanitary conditions and helps protect the environment, improve working and living conditions, and carry out immunization programs and other measures aimed at preventing epidemics. The synthesis of prophylaxis and therapeutics in medical establishments is reflected in the dispensary program, a basic feature of Soviet medicine. Particularly important is the dispensary program for children, adolescents, pregnant women, and industrial workers, especially those subjected to occupational hazards. Measures taken to care for the health of mothers, children, and adolescents are causing a sharp reduction in mortality among mothers and children and are helping prevent postpartum diseases and rear a healthy new generation. Women’s and children’s consultation clinics, maternity hospitals, kindergartens, and day-care centers engage in extensive prophylactic work.

In the USSR, the widespread system of preventive checkups of workers, adolescents, and other groups and the related preventive and corrective measures taken on behalf of individual workers and entire groups are other important areas of prophylaxis. Public-health education is still another aspect of the prophylactic work of Soviet physicians and paramedical personnel.


Semashko, N. A. Izbr. proizv., 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Solov’ev, Z. P. Voprosy sotsial’noi gigieny i zdravookhraneniia: Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1970.
Rukovodslvo po sotsial’noi gigiene i organizatsii zdravookhraneniia, 3rd ed., vols 1–2. Edited by N. A. Vinogradov. Moscow, 1974.


Prophylaxis in veterinary medicine is aimed at preventing the development and spread of infectious, parasitic, and noncontagious diseases among domestic animals, fishes, bees, and fur-bearing animals; protecting people against diseases common to man and animals; decreasing losses in livestock raising; increasing the productivity of animals, fishes, and bees; raising the level of veterinary medicine on livestock farms; breeding healthy young animals; and establishing highly productive, healthy herds of cattle. The Soviet system of prophylaxis in veterinary medicine, based on the Veterinary Legislation and Veterinary Code of the USSR, takes into account the social and economic interests of a socialist society. The Veterinary Service of the USSR is responsible for the veterinary and sanitary protection of state borders, the systematic supervision, inspection, and examination of livestock farms, and the examination of foodstuffs and industrial raw materials of animal origin. The service also carries out general and specific corrective and an-tiepizootic measures, as well as continuous therapeutic, prophylactic, and educational work.

Prophylactic measures carried out in veterinary medicine may be general or specific. The former include periodic examinations and dispensary programs designed to isolate and treat diseased animals and eliminate any disease that has appeared. Other general measures include regular cleaning and disinfection of animal quarters and the implements and land of livestock farms, the quarantining of animals newly arrived in the USSR or at a livestock farm, the destruction and utilization of carcasses, the disinfection of manure, deratization, and disin-festation. Specific measures include diagnostic laboratory examinations, inoculations, worming, seroprophylaxis, the use of drugs and antibiotics, and proclamation of quarantines. Of great importance, owing to the intensification of livestock raising and the establishment of large industrial-type farms, are methods of developing breeds and lines of disease-resistant animals, methods of increasing resistance and immunobiological reactivity, and the development of plans and methods for disease prevention. The extensive use of pesticides in the economy has resulted in cases of poisoning among farm animals, fishes, and bees. This problem is solved by not feeding farm animals fodder treated with toxic substances.


Veterinarnoe zakonodatel’stvo, vols. 1–2. Edited by A. D. Tret’iakov. Moscow, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The prevention of disease.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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Had we counted only regular prophylactic drug use as sulfa exposure, the association in this study would have been positive, albeit very imprecise (RD = 0.17, 95% CLD = 1.32).
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