Public Health and Genetics

The role of public health is to ensure that the basic conditions required for people to be healthy are present. Until recently, public health focused mostly on environmental causes and risk factors for disease, such as infections, cigarette smoking, diet, etc. Since the sequencing of the human genome has been completed, high hopes rest on the potential to prevent the impact of genetic risk factors or susceptibilities to disease. Advances in genetic knowledge and technology could be used to try to prevent disease and improve population health. The perceived role of genetics in public health is changing, as is the definition of what is a genetic disease. The role of genetics in public health is broadened if we consider all the diseases for which genetics might play a role, either by the presence of a genetic susceptibility for the development of this disease or for response to treatment, or by the presence of protective genetic factors, such as in resistance to infection.

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