Genetics in Population Health Science: Strategies and Opportunities

Daniel W. Belsky is with the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical Center, and the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC. Terrie E. Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi are with the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, and the Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 08/2013; 103(S1). DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301139
Source: PubMed


Translational research is needed to leverage discoveries from the frontiers of genome science to improve public health. So far, public health researchers have largely ignored genetic discoveries, and geneticists have ignored important aspects of population health science. This mutual neglect should end. In this article, we discuss 3 areas where public health researchers can help to advance translation: (1) risk assessment: investigate genetic profiles as components in composite risk assessments; (2) targeted intervention: conduct life-course longitudinal studies to understand when genetic risks manifest in development and whether intervention during sensitive periods can have lasting effects; and (3) improved understanding of environmental causation: collaborate with geneticists on gene-environment interaction research. We illustrate with examples from our own research on obesity and smoking. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print August 8, 2013: e1-e11. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301139).

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