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Leapfrogging into the future

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d2990 (Published 13 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2990
  1. Jane Parry
  1. 1Hong Kong

Genetics expert Ron Zimmern tells Jane Parry that advances in genomics may soon mean that low income countries feel the benefits as much as rich ones

The completion of the human genome project in 2003 was hailed at the time as a scientific breakthrough that would revolutionise medicine. Eight years on, although genomics undoubtedly has revolutionary potential, there has been little consensus on the likely pace of change, and even less on the implications of genomics for public health.

The promise of personalised medical treatment, the potential to screen for inherited diseases, the explosion in availability of direct-to-consumer genetic testing services, are all interesting issues for public health practitioners. But, says Ron Zimmern, chairman of the PHG Foundation (Foundation for Genomics and Population Health), the real question is not how genomics will be absorbed into the public health universe, rather it is how public health will need to change in the era of genomics.

“There is, as I see it, a crisis in public health in that it is too much dominated by social …

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