Genomics Forum Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nomination of Francis Collins to lead NIH

We recently sent the following announcement to APHA to publish in the e-newsletter Inside Public Health. We will also forward this statement to the Government Relations Office to incorporate into their letter of support to Congress for the nomination. Are there specific ways in which you believe this nomination will support the goals of public health? We have been asked to forward bullet points in addition to the statement below, so please share these thoughts/comments.


Draft Statement from the Genomics Forum Regarding Nomination of Francis Collins to lead NIH

The Genomics Forum of the American Public Health Association commends the nomination of Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., as the new director of the National Institutes of Health

Like the members of the Genomics Forum, Dr. Collins also realizes the growing influence of genetics and genomics on everyday life in America. He works diligently to assure that this influence contributes meaningfully to the public health vision of health for all. Dr. Collins' record of support for the responsible integration of genetics and genomics into individual and community health marks and exciting moment for the future of NIH.


NIH Official Announcement


How to post a comment (It's easy!):

Click on 'comments' (below) and this will open a text box for you to write your comment and 'sign' it as you wish. Click publish and you are done! We look forward to hearing from you!

-Jody Platt

Monday, July 27, 2009

Genetics/Genomics in Popular Culture & Media

I’ve spent much of my career trying to understand the roles of genetics, and now genomics, in improving public health.* How genetics/genomics concepts and terminology enters the public discourse, the meanings non-scientists attach to this information, and how this information impacts decisions to participate in research and health services is important, but still relatively uncharted territory. Much of what the public knows and understands about genetics and genomics appears to be an interesting admixture of grade school science and exposure to popular culture and media (Bates, 2005; Lanie et al., 2004; Nelkin & Lindee, 2004; Richards, 1996; and others). Fictional book characters in The Time Traveler’s Wife and Harry Potter series often run headlong into genetic/genomic health, social, and ethical issues. Hollywood films are similarly chock full of modern or futuristic genetic technologies and characters weighing the risks, benefits, and morality of these innovations. Titles such as GATTACA, Jurassic Park, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and the Resident Evil series do brisk business on Even television has gotten into the act with offerings ranging from cholesterol drug commercials to the African American Lives series. Everywhere they turn, the public is bombarded with real and imaginary genetic/genomic information and technologies.

In the post-Genome Project era, we in genetics/genomics and public health have a duty to ensure that the public has the knowledge and skills, or genetic/genomic literacy, necessary for informed decision-making. Whether revised K-12th science and health curricula or some type of comprehensive public health genomics education, we will have to decide what constitutes functional genetic/genomic literacy and how we are going to deliver literacy-building programs and services. These are very complex questions. Therefore, I “second” James O’Leary’s call for multidisciplinary collaboration. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

-Heather Honore

*The views expressed in this blog entry do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Health Administration, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, or Baylor College of Medicine.

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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Article Published by Aaron Goldenberg

Aaron Goldenberg, Chair of the Forum's Special Projects Committee, is one of the authors on a new article in Public Health Genomics titled "Not Without my Permission: Parents' Willingness to Permit Use of Newborn Screening Samples for Research." This article summarizes results from an internet-based research study on parents' attitudes toward using blood spots from newborn screening for research as well as allowing storage of the spots.

I enjoyed this article because it gives a representative perspective on a present issue in society. Currently, the state of Michigan is keeping stored blood spots indefinitely and allowing research to be conducted on them, yet many parents are unfamiliar with this entire process (let alone even remembering the blood spot was taken after birth). This is a pressing issue that should be thought about carefully by every individual in the United States. This article is a great first step in understanding parents' attitudes toward the storage and use of their child's blood spot samples for research.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome to the Genomics Forum’s new website and blog!

The Genomics Forum began three years ago as a small group of people interested in the interaction between genomics and public health. When we had meetings I could email people individually. We set up a website where we could post meeting agendas and minutes for the single organizing committee. And then the Forum grew.

Today, we have four functional committees, a Steering Committee, and three working groups. Instead of ~20 members, we have ~400 active members. And today, I’m happy to say we have a website that can better address our larger scope.
  • The site also has all the newest information about our great program being planned for the APHA Annual Meeting (November 7-11, 2009 in Philadelphia). (Have you registered yet?)

Our Membership and Communications Committee and staff at the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences and Society Program and Center for Public Health and Community Genomics have been working hard to implement these new features and to bring us our new look. MANY THANKS FOR THIS GREAT WORK.

And we hope you’ll keep coming back to the website.

A couple times a week, our members will share information about current research and issues in practice, react to emerging news stories, and provide updates on our common projects and upcoming and recent events. We have a wealth of experience and expertise our membership brings to the blog in areas such as:
  • Genetic epidemiology
  • Genetic services
  • Genomics and public health services
  • Healthcare
  • Ethical, Legal, and Social implications
  • Environmental health
  • Education
  • Community engagement
  • Epigenetics
  • Social justice
  • Biobanking
... and much more...

My thanks to our committee leaders who have already agreed to help keep our blog dynamic by posting on a regular basis. It is my hope that other members will volunteer to post (or cross-post) to the Genomics Forum -- Having just about finished my almost-first blog post ever, I can attest to the fact that it's really pretty easy.

The Forum’s blog and website should continue to be a supportive feature of our work over the next few years. Please let us know how we’re doing in this regard, and suggest ways we can improve the site’s accessibility and usability.

Are there topics you'd like to see featured here in our blog? Are there people you'd like to invite to post?