Since 1997, the Office of Public Health Genomics (OPHG) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked to integrate genomics into public health research, policy, and programs. Our driving force is to improve interventions designed to prevent and control the country’s leading chronic, infectious, environmental, and occupational diseases. OPHG’s efforts focus on conducting population-based genomic research, assessing the role of family health history in chronic disease prevention, supporting a systematic process for evaluating genetic tests, translating genomics into public health research and programs, and strengthening capacity for public health genomics in disease prevention programs.
The United States is not alone. There have been similar efforts in many parts of the world such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union. In 2010, an international expert group made key recommendations on the emerging role of public health in the era of genomics and personalized medicine. In June 2011 the World Health Organization launched the Grand Challenges in Genomics for Public Health in Developing Countries. The vision is to develop a list of the top 10 priorities for the effective development and application of genomics-based interventions for public health improvement in developing countries that WHO will take to Member States in 2012 to guide countries’ research and public health strategies on genomics to improve public health.
In March 2011, the National Human Genome Research Institute released an ambitious strategic plan “Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside.” to accelerate the translation of genomic discoveries into clinical applications. The potential for this new knowledge to impact population health remains strong, but the immediate future of genomics to improve the public’s health remains unclear. To clarify public health priorities in this field, last week, the CDC released a Request for Information that would help inform strategic planning for public health genomics in the next five years. Specifically we need input to address the following questions:
(1) What are the most important activities that should be carried out by the public health system in 2012–2017 to apply genomic knowledge to public health goals?
(2) What outcomes specific to public health might be achieved as the result of carrying out these activities?
(3) What policies are needed in order to achieve these outcomes?
(4) What institutions, organizations and agencies need to participate in achieving these outcomes and what roles should they play?
(5) What barriers are anticipated in achieving these outcomes and how might they best be overcome?
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