Public Health Genomics (PHG)

Public health genomics is about effective and responsible translation of genome-based knowledge into public health policy and health services.

As health is now included in all EU policies, a solid evidence base is required, and the 2007 EU health strategy Choose translations of the previous link български (bg) čeština (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti keel (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) français (fr) italiano (it) latviešu valoda (lv) lietuvių kalba (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) română (ro) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv) requires the integration of genome-based knowledge and technologies in certain areas.

European network for Public Health Genomics (PHGEN)

This network aims to identify areas, issues, impacts and needs for European public health policies arising from or relating to PHG.

Although testing for inherited susceptibility on the basis of common risk alleles is premature for most diseases, the situation may be very different in 2-3 years time.

Appropriate guidelines are needed to help physicians advise patients considering this form of genetic testing as to how to interpret, and when to act on, the results as they become more stable.

The PHGEN is working to develop EU guidelines on quality assurance for and provision/use of PHG information and technologies.

Genomic health determinants

Nearly every disease has constitutive and/or acquired genetic components. We can achieve a more thorough understanding of many common illnesses by identifying

  • genomic patterns underlying disease susceptibility
  • acquired somatic genomic mutations underlying a specific disease and shaping its individual clinical phenotype, eg cancer

This information can be used to diagnose diseases and identify new treatments or more specific drug targets.

However, because of the time taken to responsibly assess the evidence of benefits and risks for testing of any new genomic pattern possibly linked to a disease, there is a time lag between the publication of newly discovered genomic markers for diseases affecting public health and their possible implementation in public health practice.

Genomic testing – privacy implications

Genomic testing may provide information on individual susceptibility and protective genomic patterns against specific diseases. In future it could form the basis for personalised prevention and medical treatment and care.

Having such information available also raises ethical, social and legal concerns – if it is used outside the sphere protected by medical confidentiality, such as in life and health insurance.

The implications of developments in modern genomics for occupational and other areas of modern molecular medicine, including biomedical and health research, continue to be monitored at EU level.