Genomics Forum Blog
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Collaborations in Public Health
Last week, I attended Genetic Alliance’s three annual events: Genetics Day on the Hill, Gene Screen, and the 2009 Annual Conference, Discovering Openness in Health Systems. During these events, I was struck by the power of genetics and genomics to promote collaboration across multiple stakeholder groups, diseases, and even perspectives. At its heart, Genomics Forum is a direct manifestation of our wish to integrate genetics and genomics into the broader health community and infuse our work with the knowledge and insight of the whole health system. One of our toughest challenges is "knowing what we don't know" about how our work relates to and impacts other areas of public health. The beauty of new technologies, integrated health systems, and collaborative models is that we don't have to know everything. To tap into the greater knowledge of our colleagues, our patients, and our communities, all we need to do is let down our defenses and dissolve the boundaries between us and them. In my work with Genetic Alliance, we are quick to point out that there is no "us and them," but only a "we." In public health, the word genomics can often be siloed into the realm of “them,” viewed as the harbinger of stem cell research, cloning, and genetically modified foods. But we know that genetics is an integral part of who we are, has transformed our knowledge of disease, and holds untapped potential for diagnostics and treatments. Still, the vast majority of work is yet to be completed and there is much that the genetics community can learn from its partners in public health. "We" are in this together and it is "our" health at stake.