Public health genomics (PHG) is the area of public health ensuring that scientific advances in genomics (“from cell...”) triggered by innovative technologies are timely, effectively and responsibly translated into health policies and practice for the benefit of population health (“...to society”). Health impact assessment (HIA) is a combination of procedures, methods and tools by which a policy, program or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population.
A huge amount of data have already been generated by genetic epidemiology and genomics studies, and the pace of accumulation of genomic information can be expected to accelerate further in the future. The progression of our knowledge about the human genome opens new perspectives in health research, as well as in health promotion and disease prevention in addition to precision medicine. Health impact assessment, which is an effective method to facilitate consideration of health in sectoral policymaking, can play a useful role in public health genomics.
Health impact assessment has repeatedly been identified as an appropriate method for assessing the future health impact of integrating genomic information and genome-based technologies into practice, being able to provide a forum for stakeholder discussion by its participatory approach, to consider inequality across different population groups and to generate and disseminate valuable information for decision-makers, especially if quantitative assessment is feasible, that is often not otherwise available. In health impact assessment, use of genomic data may allow not only for the precise assessment of future health impacts of policies, programs, and projects by identifying genetically susceptible groups and conducting genetic strata-specific quantitative assessment but for fine-tuning public health interventions to eliminate or at least mitigate the negative and maximize or at least improve the positive effects.
Although HIA has been acknowledged as a suitable tool, its application either alone or as an element of a valorization model is not systematic. The institutionalized systematic use of HIA in the assessment of future health impact of integrating genomic information and genome-based technologies into healthcare, and even more into public health practice, is still a largely unexploited opportunity. Although genomic information is accumulating with a growing pace, there is still shortage of genetic susceptibility-specific information on environmental and lifestyle exposures. Apart from the limited but increasing availability of required data, another problematic barrier is the shortage in experts with solid background in the field of genomics and HIA at the same time. In addition, policymaking processes, into which HIA could be adequately integrated, are heterogeneous and support of policymakers for establishing a systematic application of HIA varies, as well.
This entry is from 10.3390/ijerph17249417