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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Dean Says Enthusiasm for Personalized Medicine is Premature

The increasing national focus on personalized or “precision” medicine is misguided, distracting from broader investments to reduce health inequities and address the social factors that affect population health, Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) Dean Sandro Galea writes in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“There is now broad consensus that health differences between groups and within groups are not driven by clinical care, but by social-structural factors that shape our lives,” write Dr. Galea and Dr. Ronald Bayer, professor of sociomedical sciences and co-director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Yet seemingly willfully blind to this evidence, the United States continues to spend its health dollars overwhelmingly on clinical care.

“It is therefore not surprising that even as we far outpace all other countries in spending on health, we have poorer health indicators than many countries, some of them far less wealthy than ours,” the authors contend.

Dr. Bayer and Dr. Galea say that while investments in precision medicine may ultimately “open new vistas of science” and make contributions to “a narrow set of conditions that are primarily genetically determined,” enthusiasm about the promise of this research is premature.

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