Blending Insights from Implementation Science and the Social Sciences to Mitigate Inequities in Screening for Hereditary Cancer Syndromes

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Oct 15;16(20):3899. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16203899.


Genomic screening to identify people at high risk for adult-onset hereditary conditions has potential to improve population health. However, if not equitably accessible, genomics-informed screening programs will exacerbate existing health inequities or give rise to new ones. To realize the disease prevention potential of these screening tools, we need strategies to broaden their reach. We propose a conceptual framework that merges insights from implementation science and sociological research on health inequities. Our framework does three things: first, it broadens the arenas of action beyond those typically addressed in implementation science frameworks; second, it argues for recruiting more diverse partners to share the work of implementation and dissemination; and third, it shows how implementation activities can be coordinated more effectively among those partners. We use screening for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers (HBOC) as a case to illustrate how this enhanced framework could guide implementation science and distribute the benefits of genomic medicine more equitably. Although our example is specific to genomics, this approach is more broadly applicable to the field of implementation science. Coordinated action among multiple stakeholders could translate a host of new technologies from the bench to the trench without creating new inequities or exacerbating existing ones.

Keywords: consolidated framework for implementation research; genomics; health inequities; public health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Implementation Science*
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / diagnosis*

Supplementary concepts

  • Breast Cancer, Familial