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genetics
family histories
preventative measures
lifestyle changes
genetic information
The Future Of Genetics And Public Health
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Many public health programs aimed at the members of a community today have a greater focus on prevention through behavioral changes than through screening each person for potentially troublesome genes. The preference for behavioral changes could be due to a number of factors such as the costs of screening so many individuals or privacy concerns regarding having complete copies of our genomes on file. However, integrating more genetic information into health education in our communities could really help to bridge the gap of understanding. People would have access to information that would help interpret what their results mean for them as individuals. It could also open the door for medical professionals to newer ways to begin early treatment for those who have genetic illnesses with later onset. For example, if someone knows that they could be at greater risk for contracting a disease due to heredity, they could seek more specific help, such as gene therapy, in addition to basic preventative measures and testing to better insure their future health.

The use of genomics can also help patients understand their family histories and how to interpret what it is that they would act on, especially when they might not have done so otherwise. As members and patrons of public health organizations and community outreach groups, we should be trying to deliver and emphasize the importance of all levels of prevention. Of course diet and lifestyle changes are important, but much of it includes elements that would be applied generally. This is why greater research should be conducted in epidemiology and screening methods that are more available to the public and at a lower cost. Everyone is different and should be able to get personalized preventative information as such. Presently, many screening methods are only encouraged for those that would be deemed higher risk due to genetic susceptibility. However, many people don’t know this until they have encountered health problems already, but there need to be pre-screening ways to determine who these people are before familial illness sets in.

Lastly, another benefit to a greater incorporation of genetics, according to Steven Coughlin,PhD, MPH, is that we would better be able to predict the effects of environmental factors on health by being able to subtract genetic factors. If patients can be screened for particular genes and mutations, then this information could be provided to their doctors, parents and caregivers to improve the management of environmental factors that could affect that patient.

It is of great importance that we marry genetics and public health if we want to move forward in advances in preventative medicine. This is the reason for the importance of a bridge between public health, prevention and genetics. All of these must circle back to the other to provide a sufficient scope of one’s health and to be able to provide earlier therapy and treatment.


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