Prevent the genomics divide before it happens, say University Of Toronto researchers

October 04, 2001

World governments must ensure that the benefits of health genomics are available globally - and practical steps are needed to address this soon, say two University of Toronto bioethicists.

In a paper to appear in the Oct. 5 issue of Science, Drs. Peter Singer and Abdallah Daar of the University of Toronto's Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB) suggest a five-point strategy to prevent a health genomics divide between industrialized and developing countries. Singer is also a professor in the medicine department at U of T and Daar is a professor in the departments of public health sciences and surgery.

"Everybody's talking about the digital divide where information technology is widely used in Western countries but unavailable in developing countries," says Singer, who is also director of JCB, holder of the Sun Life Chair in Bioethics, director of the Canadian Program in Genomics and Global Health - funded by Genome Canada - and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research investigator. "In health genomics, we're now at a situation where we can prevent that divide from developing in the first place. Those equity issues are some of the most important ethical questions facing the world today."

The five-point strategy focuses on more research into ethical, legal and social issues associated with biotechnology, training policy makers in developing countries who specialize in genomics, the establishment of a global commission on genomics and world health, greater public engagement and the creation of an investment fund in genomics and related biotechnology to improve health in poorer countries. The researchers would like to see genomics and global health equity as agenda items at next year's G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta.

"By extending their discussion of health issues to genomics, G-8 leaders could signal their intention to prevent a health genomics divide from developing in the first place," write Singer and Daar. Currently, 90 per cent of health research expenditure is for the health problems of 10 per cent of the world's population. If that pattern continues to play itself out in genomics health research and genomics products, they are concerned that the equity gap will widen further.

Genomics research will completely transform health care in 10 years, says Daar, who is also director of JCB's Program in Applied Ethics and Biotechnology, which is funded by the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund. Industrialized countries are only now seeing the beginnings of the transformation. "The key question is whether that's only going to happen in the rich northern countries - leaving the south behind - or whether both the north and the south are going to benefit from the genomics revolution that's coming in health care."

Daar and Singer hope to link their proposal with the New African Initiative - a proposal for regeneration in Africa that deals with health, education and poverty reduction strategies - which will be a topic of discussion at the G-8 summit.

The benefits of genomics and biotechnology research must be extended globally, including to the global poor, they say. "Without some serious attention as to how to accomplish that, the benefits of genomics will accrue only to the developed countries and the gaps in global health equity will widen," Singer concludes.
-end-
Additional contacts:

Peter Singer
U of T Department of Medicine
416-978-4756
peter.singer@utoronto.ca

Abdallah Daar
U of T Departments of Public Health Sciences and Surgery
416-946-7703
a.daar@utoronto.ca

University of Toronto

Related Health Care Articles from Brightsurf:

Study evaluates new World Health Organization Labor Care Guide for maternity care providers
The World Health Organization developed the new Labor Care Guide to support clinicians in providing good quality, women-centered care during labor and childbirth.

Six ways primary care "medical homes" are lowering health care spending
New analysis of 394 U.S. primary care practices identifies the aspects of care delivery that are associated with lower health care spending and lower utilization of emergency care and hospital admissions.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

Spending on primary care vs. other US health care expenditures
National health care survey data were used to assess the amount of money spent on primary care relative to other areas of health care spending in the US from 2002 to 2016.

MU Health Care neurologist publishes guidance related to COVID-19 and stroke care
A University of Missouri Health Care neurologist has published more than 40 new recommendations for evaluating and treating stroke patients based on international research examining the link between stroke and novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Large federal program aimed at providing better health care underfunds primary care
Despite a mandate to help patients make better-informed health care decisions, a ten-year research program established under the Affordable Care Act has funded a relatively small number of studies that examine primary care, the setting where the majority of patients in the US receive treatment.

International medical graduates care for Medicare patients with greater health care needs
A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital research team indicates that internal medicine physicians who are graduates of medical schools outside the US care for Medicare patients with more complex medical needs than those cared for by graduates of American medical schools.

The Lancet Global Health: Improved access to care not sufficient to improve health, as epidemic of poor quality care revealed
Of the 8.6 million deaths from conditions treatable by health care, poor-quality care is responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths per year -- more than deaths due to insufficient access to care (3.6 million) .

Under Affordable Care Act, Americans have had more preventive care for heart health
By reducing out-of-pocket costs for preventive treatment, the Affordable Care Act appears to have encouraged more people to have health screenings related to their cardiovascular health.

High-deductible health care plans curb both cost and usage, including preventive care
A team of researchers based at IUPUI has conducted the first systematic review of studies examining the relationship between high-deductible health care plans and the use of health care services.

Read More: Health Care News and Health Care Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.