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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2004 Nov;58(11):894-9.

Genetics and public health--evolution, or revolution?

Author information

1
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Australia. jane.halliday@mcri.edu.au.

Abstract

During the 19th and early 20th century, public health and genetics shared common ground through similar approaches to health promotion in the population. By the mid-20th century there was a division between public health and genetics, with eugenicists estranged and clinical genetics focused on single gene disorders, usually only relevant to small numbers of people. Now through a common interest in the aetiology of complex diseases such as heart disease and cancer, there is a need for people working in public health and genetics to collaborate. This is not a comfortable convergence for many, particularly those in public health. Nine main concerns are reviewed: fear of eugenics; genetic reductionism; predictive power of genes; non-modifiable risk factors; rights of individuals compared with populations; resource allocation; commercial imperative; discrimination; and understanding and education. This paper aims to contribute to the thinking and discussion about an evolutionary, multidisciplinary approach to understanding, preventing, and treating complex diseases.

PMID:
15483303
PMCID:
PMC1732597
DOI:
10.1136/jech.2003.018515
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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