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Genetic Techniques in Public Health

Public Health Approaches In Genetics, Applied Research, Evaluation Of Genetic Information And Tests, Development, Implementation, And Evaluation Of Population Interventions

As of 2002 more than ten thousand genes have been discovered, and it is estimated that 30,000 to 70,000 human genes will be identified as a result of the Human Genome Project over the following few years. Tests for more than 600 gene variants are already available in medical practice.

Genetic variants, or polymorphisms, are a normal part of genetic viability that may or may not be associated with an increase or decrease in disease risk. With advances in biotechnology, newly characterized genetic variants are being identified at a rapid rate. The challenge will be to ensure the appropriate use of genetic information to improve health and prevent disease in individuals, families, and communities.

The broad mission of public health is to act in society's interest to assure conditions in which people can be healthy. Public health genetics is the application of advances in genetics and molecular biotechnology to improve the public's health and prevent disease. Rapid progress in biotechnology, in sequencing the human genome, and in characterizing gene expression have generated high hopes of finding new ways to improve the public's health through the prevention and treatment of diseases.

At the same time, concerns have been raised about the premature application of such technologies and knowledge. Genetic testing and the understanding of how factors such as hormones, diet, and the environment influence risk in susceptible individuals and human populations present important challenges in the field of public health genetics. Ethical issues, health care policy priorities, risks of discrimination in employment and insurance, and complex psychological aspects within families are also crucial issues in this field.

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Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 3