Precisely Where Are We Going? Charting the New Terrain of Precision Prevention

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2017 Aug 31:18:369-387. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-091416-035222. Epub 2017 Apr 24.


In addition to genetic data, precision medicine research gathers information about three factors that modulate gene expression: lifestyles, environments, and communities. The relevant research tools-epidemiology, environmental assessment, and socioeconomic analysis-are those of public health sciences rather than molecular biology. Because these methods are designed to support inferences and interventions addressing population health, the aspirations of this research are expanding from individualized treatment toward precision prevention in public health. The purpose of this review is to explore the emerging goals and challenges of such a shift to help ensure that the genomics community and public policy makers understand the ethical issues at stake in embracing and pursuing precision prevention. Two emerging goals bear special attention in this regard: (a) public health risk reduction strategies, such as screening, and (b) the application of genomic variation studies to understand and reduce health disparities among population groups.

Keywords: ELSI; genomics; health disparities; precision medicine; prevention; public health.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Genomics*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Preventive Medicine*