Genomics is the study of the entire human genome. Unlike genetics (the study of the functions and effects of single genes), genomics explores not only the actions of single genes, but also the interactions of multiple genes with each other and with the environment. As a result, genomics has great potential for improving the health of the public. However, realizing the benefits of genomics requires a systematic evaluation of its potential contributions and an understanding of the information and other factors necessary to facilitate the translation of research findings into public health strategies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Genomics and Disease Prevention (CDC) contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to convene a committee that would plan and conduct a workshop on the implications of genomics for the public’s health. During the workshop, speakers were asked to discuss major scientific and policy issues related to genomics and public health, examine major supports for and challenges to the translation of genetic research into population health benefits, and suggest approaches for the integration of genomic information into strategies for promoting health and preventing disease. The CDC also requested that the IOM committee prioritize issues and approaches raised during the workshop.
In response to the CDC, the IOM convened the Committee on Genomics and the Public’s Health in the 21st Century. Committee membership includes experts in genomics, epidemiology, pharmacology, social and behavioral health, public health, law, health care delivery, finance, and ethics. A workshop organized by the committee was held October 7
and 8, 2004, in Washington, DC. There were four panels that considered the following topics: the science of genomics, bridging genomics and public health, and gene–environment interactions; clinical use of genomic information, cost-effectiveness analysis, genomic information and behavior, and effecting population change; the public health system, international lessons, educating the public, and capacity; and data, financing and access, and legal and regulatory issues (see Appendix C for the workshop agenda).
This report summarizes the workshop presentations and commentary. It is important to note that, with the exception of the section entitled “Priorities,” all material is taken directly from the workshop presentations. No additional material has been added, nor have analyses or interpretations of the presentations been made. As described in the charge to the committee, the “Priorities” section of the report does contain committee conclusions regarding prioritization of issues raised by the presenters with suggestions for next steps.