Genomics, Medicine and Race: Political Valences and Health Policy Implications

Award Year:
Jennifer Hochschild
Genetics, Health Disparities
The use of genomics in medicine has the potential to transform concepts of racial identity, making it immaterial, highly salient, or possibly both in different circumstances. Treatment for genetic diseases may eventually be tailored to fit an individual's genome, in which case the patient's self-defined race will not matter. Alternatively, genomic medicine may result in treatments that are licensed only for people of a particular race, as in the case of BiDil, an FDA-approved drug for treating congestive heart failure only in African Americans. Jennifer L. Hochschild, Ph.D., Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government at Harvard University, and colleague Maya Sen, J.D., will explore the growth of politics, ideologies, and policies in this rapidly evolving field. Their study, Genomics, Medicine and Race: Political Valences and Health Policy Implications, will examine the growth of individuals' direct access to their own or family members' genetic information; how genetic information is changing the practice of medicine; and the extent to which genetic medicine affects how Americans think about their race and ethnicity. They will focus on how government can support genomic research while protecting citizens from risks, and how policymakers' beliefs or partisan affiliations can influence their opinions about regulation, funding, prohibitions, and acceptable risks. They will conduct a national survey of 5,000 people, as well as 100 in-person interviews with key players in the field from genomic scientists to legislators and judges. Their project will lead to policy options addressing the appropriate role of race in drug approval, improvements in medical diagnosis and treatment, and guidelines for legitimate use of information from individual DNA profiles.