Genomics Forum Blog

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Coming to Fruition

After months of preparation, the Genomics Forum’s Program Committee’s has finalized the business meeting and scientific sessions for APHA’s 137th Annual Meeting, being held in Philadelphia, November 7th - 11th. As you plan to make the most out of your APHA experience meeting this year (see James O’Leary’s post, The Infinite Meeting), please keep in mind all of the Forum’s activities:

The Forum will be kicking off its Philadelphia experience with the Genomics Forum’s Annual Business meeting at 8am on Sunday. All are invited to participate in this great opportunity to meet and network with public health professionals who are interested in genomics. This is also the time of year when each committee will update the general membership on their activates and seek your input to achieve their goals and objectives for the coming year, either through brainstorming or becoming involved via a leadership position.

We will round off Sunday with the Forum’s poster session from 2:30-3:30, which will be a broad overview of many timely, relevant, and important aspects of genomics and genetics research in public health settings.

Throughout Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the Forum will be hosting 7 oral sessions, as well as co-sponsoring an additional 10 sessions with various APHA groups.

The first oral presentation, “Novel applications of genomics and family health history in public health”, will begin at 8:30 Monday morning. This session will explore the way that family health history is currently being used, as well as the influence that race and ethnicity plays, in framing ideas around personalized medicine and genomics.

The second oral presentation, “Communicating genetic and genomic risks to the public” , will be Monday at 10:30. This session will include presentations on both communications about and understanding of genetic information. The utility of a toolkit in facilitating discussion within families and with healthcare providers about family health history will be examined. Additionally, the impact of both age and reported racial background on understanding of genetics will also be explored. Finally, a report on the factors influencing interest in SNP testing for colon cancer risk will be given. Implications for the development of public health policy about how to best communicate genetic information will be presented.

The final oral presentation on Monday is “Genomics and health disparities” at 4:30 pm. This session will examine the problem of healthcare disparities within the context of genetics. Barriers to adequate services can be concrete, such as the geographical separation of a population from available sub-specialists. Complex language and high grade level readability for information from direct to consumer genetic testing companies can lead to inadequately informed consumers. The inclusion of minorities in research is also critical if the entire U.S. population is to benefit from advances in genomics. Finally, the importance of exploration of a minority’s understanding of genetics is underscored by a presentation discussing the impact of Korean-Americans’ concept of “matching” on their willingness to be enrolled in the National Marrow Donor Program.

We will start Tuesday off at 10:30 with the oral session entitled “Translational research in genomics and public health education”. In this session, explorations of and possible solutions to these needs will be presented. Recently, three recommendations from the EGAPP (Evaluation of Genetics in Practice and Prevention) initiative were published, representing a step forward in establishing a mechanism for evaluation of the utility of research tests in clinical practice. Another presentation will highlight the importance of establishing ethical and legal guidelines for the use of the large-scale genomics data-sets that are critical for this field. The Personal Genome Project will be explored as a positive example of responsible research. The impact of genetic information on individuals and their families must also be explored as an essential component of translation. The importance of a family history of lung cancer on risk perception for this condition will be presented, highlighting the importance of investigation of subgroup perceptions when considering policy and education strategies for improving health outcomes. Finally, findings from a prospective study on communication of parental genetic information to their children about genetic test results for BRCA1/2 will be discussed.

Tuesday afternoon will include back-to-back sessions on direct to consumer genetic testing. The first session will being at 2:30 (Direct to consumer genetic testing and personalized medicine: What does it mean for the public’s health?) and will be a panel of complementary speakers addressing key public health research and policy questions from several interdisciplinary perspectives. They will address current scientific progress in the field and its potential clinical and policy impacts, impact on public health of direct-to-consumer testing, the industry perspective on incorporating genomic information into screening and treatment strategies, and the potential for health disparities in the widespread clinical adoption of genetically-targeted therapies, including the ethical, legal and social issues. The second session will begin at 4:30 and is entitled “Genetic testing and information available direct to consumer”. This session brings together genetic counselors, a molecular biologist, and a researcher with expertise in carrier testing in the Ashkenazi Jewish population to present the scientific, consumer, and ethical aspects of providing genetic information directly to consumers. How to ensure the DTC market is properly managed will be discussed.

Finally on Wednesday morning, we will host our final oral session at 8:30 “Public education, social justice, and advocacy in genomics”. This session will focus on various contributions to our understanding of the importance of public education and advocacy to the field of public health genomics. The Access To Credible Genetics Resources Network (ATCG-RN) project, the BioCONECT curriculum, the Advocacy Coalition Framework, and the importance of social marketing that addresses the needs and interests of a specific community (i.e. the Deaf community as an example of a cultural and linguistic minority) will be discussed.

For the complete list of Forum’s programs, including the co-sponsored sessions, please be sure to visit us on the APHA website.

See you Philadelphia!

-H. Dean Hosgood

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