What is the best way to go about the biggest global health problems facing the modern world? Should we focus on the individual and make sure no one is left behind, just like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals state, or should we try to focus on population health? This problem of efficiency and the methods of approach have been very prominent in global health since the inception of the field, but with the introduction of precision medicine, it makes the decisions for public health officials much more difficult.
Precision medicine focuses on individual patients and updating treatment based on individuals’ backgrounds and specific cases, which allows for a “custom-fit” treatment of the patient. This is great for hospitals and treating patients on a smaller scale, but when the task is preventing the spread of malaria in a region with multiple subpopulations, the benefits of precision medicine become obscure. Due to the individual focus that is associated with precision medicine, the focus on population-level treatment ends up being lost, and in global health, this can be a problem. When treating groups of people or somewhat large populations, cost-efficiency and treatment on a large scale are necessary in order to achieve the goals set by the organization working on a solution. Instead of this policy and implementation efficiency focus, precision medicine works to treat the individuals and ends up losing cost-efficiency with the whole population. The extensive use of genomics, genetics, and computer analysis in precision medicine also fail to take into account the intricacies of environmental and socioeconomic effects that are real challenges in a global health setting. So, even though precision medicine provides a great way to treat individual patients and provides a hopeful future for the treatment of specialized cases, especially in developed countries, it does not have the same effect in the context of a developing country, where cost efficiency and financial burden are all key factors in treating as many people as possible.
Edited by: Laura Wang
Graphic Designed by: Amber Smith
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Mentis, A.-F. A., Pantelidi, K., Dardiotis, E., Hadjigergiou, G. M., & Petinaki, E. (2018). Precision Medicine and Global Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. frontiers in Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5861134/