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Public Health Genomics 2015: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Posted on by Muin J Khoury, Director, Office of Public Health Genomics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

the year 2015 with DNA on the 0 and the number 6 sliding in and people in the foregroundIn 2015, the United States launched the precision medicine initiative that includes a cancer component and a national cohort research study of one million or more people. While much of this initiative will take years to develop outputs for use in health care, a public health perspective is crucial to ensure the initiative’s success in terms of representativeness, generalizability, implementation and near-term deployment of already established evidence-based genomic findings to save lives and prevent disease.

In 2015, the field of pathogen genomics continued to expand. Molecular technologies are being integrated into the diagnosis, treatment and control of infections. For example, rapid metagenomic identification of viral pathogens in clinical samples can be accomplished by real-time nanopore sequencing analysis. CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) initiative is combining genome technologies with bioinformatics and epidemiology to enhance public health surveillance, investigations and control of infectious diseases.

In 2015, we saw increasing applications of human genetics into public health programs. While genetics has been part of public health since newborn screening began in the 1960’s, genetics is becoming a priority area for prevention and treatment of common chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. A special 2015 issue of the journal Healthcare presented data and information of ongoing public health activities in reducing the burden of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, screening children for familial hypercholesterolemia, and engaging medically underserved populations in family history education.

Because of the rapid evolution of genomic medicine, a crucial function in public health genomics is to identify evidence-based genomic applications that can improve health, inform and engage various stakeholders, and integrate genomics into ongoing public health programs. To help with this daunting task, the CDC launched in 2015 the Public Health Genomics Knowledge Base in an effort to continue capturing evolving snapshots of the field while tracking the translational trajectory of genome-based discoveries into population health impact.

So what’s in store for 2016?  The coming year promises to be quite exciting as efforts to implement the precision medicine research initiative get ramped up. The population health impact perspective will guide our collaborative efforts with many parts of the CDC and other partners. A short list of our priorities for 2016 include

  1. Developing more robust approaches to describe on an ongoing basis the evolving information on genomics and population health impact;
  2. Working with state public health programs to identify public health-based genomics implementation activities;
  3.  Developing metrics for best practices on genomics and population health including indicators for successful implementation and outcomes
  4.  Disseminating information on an ongoing basis through a web based tool box providing information on genomics and population health
  5. Exploring key concepts for development of “precision public health” beyond genomics to include a variety of personal and environmental data for preventing disease and promoting health

We encourage our readers to submit their feedback and input on these activities.  From all of us in the Office of Public Health Genomics, all the best for a happy holiday season and successful 2016!

 

Posted on by Muin J Khoury, Director, Office of Public Health Genomics, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTags

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