Epidemiology and Genomic Research

Concerns have been raised about the value of genomic research for prevention and public health, especially for complex diseases with risk factors that are amenable to environmental modification. Given that gene-environment interactions underlie almost all human diseases, the public health significance of genomic research on common diseases with modifiable environmental risks is based not necessarily on finding new genetic ‘‘causes’’ but on improving existing approaches to identifying and modifying environmental risk factors to better prevent and treat disease. Such applied genomic research for environmentally caused diseases is important, because it may help stratify disease risks and differentiate interventions for achieving population health benefits; it could help identify new environmental risk factors for disease or help confirm suspected environmental risk factors; and  it may aid our understanding of disease occurrence in terms of transmission, natural history, severity, etiologic heterogeneity, and targets for intervention at the population level. While genomics is still in its infancy, opportunities exist for developing, testing, and applying the tools of genomics to clinical and public health research, especially for conditions with known or suspected environmental causes. This research is likely to lead to population-wide health promotion and disease prevention efforts, not only to interventions targeted according to genetic susceptibility

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