An estimated 15 per cent of the American population suffers from some form of emotional disorder. Such widespread prevalence dictates allocation of more funds for development of primary prevention programs. For years investigators have successfully used the specific disease prevention paradigm to control infectious and nutritional diseases. To prevent psychiatric disorders, however, investigators are now including a general disease prevention paradigm that seeks etiological factors among a variety of stressful life events as well as among biological, psychological, and sociological factors that differentially predispose individuals to emotional disorders. An effective primary prevention campaign will require a national policy for the enhancement of mental health and perhaps even the establishment of an agency concerned solely with primary prevention. In the related paper following this one, Drs. Lamb and Zusman discuss new concepts in primary prevention but question the effectiveness of mental health promotion.