PUBLIC HEALTH workers are often looking for new ways to promote health, prevent disease and raise awareness, so it is no surprise that the field's many new frontiers range from the massive World Wide Web to a microscopic chain of DNA.
Such frontiers were explored during APHA's 136th Annual Meeting in San Diego in October. Looking inward, presenters at a session on genomics discussed the many intersections between genomics--or the study of genes--and the goals of public health. Speaking at the first scientific session sponsored by APHA's new Genomics Forum, Carol Stone, PhD, MAS, MS, of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, discussed a statewide study on the creation of a "biobank," which would be used to store biological samples from pregnant donors and study the causes of preterm births and birth defects.
According to Stone, Connecticut is home to a disproportionate number of preterm births among black women, and a publicly owned biobank would help researchers discover the biological and environmental factors that contribute to early births, which correlate with low birthweights and neonatal mortality. After months of study, researchers closed deliberations with "unanimous positive support" for such a biobank. Stone noted that no biobank can be a success without public input, continuing public awareness and efforts to maximize public trust.
Following Stone, LeiShih Chen, PhD, PT, CHES, an assistant professor at the University of North Florida, discussed the many similarities between public health educators and genetic counselors, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously called for cooperation between the two fields. Chen said the two professions share a similar code of ethics and that better collaborations could yield positive health outcomes. Some public health schools are already taking a dip in the gene pool, such as Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N. …