Challenges and Opportunities for Communication about the Role of Genomics in Public Health

Public Health Genomics. 2021;24(1-2):67-74. doi: 10.1159/000512485. Epub 2021 Jan 14.


Despite growing awareness about the potential for genomic information to improve population health, lingering communication challenges remain in describing the role of genomics in public health programs. Identifying and addressing these challenges provide an important opportunity for appropriate communication to ensure the translation of genomic discoveries for public health benefits. In this commentary, we describe 5 common communication challenges encountered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office of Genomics and Precision Public Health based on over 20 years of experience in the field. These include (1) communicating that using genomics to assess rare diseases can have an impact on public health; (2) providing evidence that genetic factors can add important information to environmental, behavioral, and social determinants of health; (3) communicating that although genetic factors are nonmodifiable, they can increase the impact of public health programs and communication strategies; (4) addressing the concern that genomics is not ready for clinical practice; and (5) communicating that genomics is valuable beyond the domain of health care and can be integrated as part of public health programs. We discuss opportunities for addressing these communication challenges and provide examples of ongoing approaches to communication about the role of genomics in public health to the public, researchers, and practitioners.

Keywords: Communication; Genomics; Medicine; Public health.

MeSH terms

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Communication*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Public Health*
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • United States