With the mapping of the human genome, the genetic revolution has begun. The science of genomics is contributing to the production of innovative medical research, technologies and services. Genomics promises significant benefits for the future of medicine and public health. The policy implications of genomics for public health should neither be underestimated or ignored.
For policies to be sustainable and effective, they need to be socially acceptable. This does not mean that they ought to be constructed to appease the masses; rather, it means that they should be informed by the views of a public that is itself informed. There is therefore a need to educate ordinary citizens in a balanced manner about advances in the science, including the ethical, legal, and social implications they pose.
Though a challenging endeavor, the “Genomics for Everyone” website is intended in part to test the notion that motivated members of the public and public health practitioners can successfully engage the important questions and materials raised by genomic science—as most of them must—without a great deal of prior experience and knowledge.
“Genomics for Everyone” is designed to educate broadly in two ways: Providing general information about genomic science and its ethical and social implications and increasing practical knowledge about genomics by way of a curriculum applicable to both undergraduate and graduate students, the health care workforce, and the public, in six topical areas:
- Genomics & P4 Medicine (Predictive, Preventive, Personalized & Participatory Medicine);
- Social Epidemiology & Health Care Disparities;
- Genetic Epidemiology, Pre-Natal & Newborn Screening;
- Genetic Testing & Privacy;
- Whole Genome Sequencing & Personalized Medicine; and
- Epigenomics, Obesity and “The Metabolic Syndrome.”
Each of the above instructional units will achieve their respective educational goals either separately or in various combinations depending on one’s personal interests, even though beginning any approach with “Genomics & P4 Medicine” will lay a foundation on which to build further exploration of the ever evolving and multi-disciplinary landscape of the emerging field of “public health genomics.” No matter the learning approach, however, the serious visitor to this website will gain much for the expended effort:
- An understanding of the history, terms, and technologies fundamental to navigating the growing field of genomics as reported in the popular and scientific press;
- A more informed perspective on the interplay between genomic discovery and its application to the practice of contemporary and future healthcare;
- An overview of the key ethical and policy issues raised by genomic science and their implications and challenges for how the “genomic revolution” will affect our individual and collective lives.
At any point on your genomics journey feel free to post questions and discuss others at this website: We’ll be looking forward to hearing from—and working with–you!
The next generation of consumers will be the true beneficiaries of the promise of genomics. But how will they make informed choices in a world resplendent with genomics products, including tools to predict disease and the engineered drugs to treat those diseases?S. Elgin, Viktor Hamburger Professor of Arts and Professor of Education, Washington University. St. Louis