From genes to public health: the applications of genetic technology in disease prevention. Genetics Working Group.
OBJECTIVES: With advances in the Human Genome Project, the implications of genetic technology in disease prevention should be assessed. METHODS: The paradigm suggested in The Future of Public Health--assessment, policy development, and assurance--was used to examine the continuum from genetic technology to public health practice. RESULTS: First, important public health functions are to (1) assess the impact of genes and their interactions with modifiable disease risk factors on the health status of the population and (2) assess the impact and safety of genetic testing on the population. Second, given the many implications of genetic testing, the public health community should participate in policy development related to the timing and use of genetic testing in disease prevention. Third, whenever appropriate, the public health community needs to ensure the development of public health genetics programs (e.g. newborn screening) and evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the use of genetic testing in disease prevention. CONCLUSIONS: Although most current genetic tests are not ready for disease prevention, there is an important role for the public health community in translating genetic technology into disease prevention.