New framework for genomics-led personalised prevention proposed

13 October 2015

A vision for genomics and its place in the dawning era of personalised medicine is the focus of a new framework for health, to be discussed at the 8th European Public Health Conference in Milan this week.

PHG Foundation Director Dr Hilary Burton will present the proposed framework, which is the outcome from discussions earlier this year initiated by past president of the European Public Health Association, Professor Walter Ricciardi.

Prof. Ricciardi will also be speaking at the roundtable to which the framework is being presented, as will Stefania Boccia from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore who co-authored the discussion paper that sets out the expert thinking on this issue.

The paper builds on the original field of public health genomics, proposing a new paradigm for personalised healthcare that addresses the changing health needs of populations and includes an important new concept of ‘personalised prevention’. The approach is based on personal empowerment and tailored prevention and care informed by increasing capacity to predict and understand individual risk, and produce detailed molecular characterisation of disease.

It is proposed that genomics and other ‘omics technologies (such as proteomics and metabolomics) must be integrated with the emerging multiplicity of eHealth and mHealth technologies (such as wearable sensors). Alongside understanding the potential of these technologies for health improvement, it is said that public health professionals must also address accompanying health service organisational barriers to their effective use, as well as a range of ethical, legal and social factors, including management of data and data sharing, ensuring protection of vulnerable groups, promotion of equity and the potential regulation of the commercial sector.

Dr Burton commented: “Personalised prevention should be seen as complementary to classic population oriented public approaches rather than an alternative. The PHG Foundation is poised as an organisation to take forward this agenda over forthcoming months with a wide programme looking at the potential for innovative technologies. As always our public health principles will be at the forefront and I look forward to continuing this discussion to a wider European Public Health audience”.

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