olsson-geneticsandpublic-2004.pdf (82.22 kB)
Genetics and public health - evolution, or revolution?
journal contributionposted on 2004-11-01, 00:00 authored by J Halliday, V Collins, M Aitkens, M Richards, Craig OlssonCraig Olsson
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.