A collaborative study from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health recently found that genetic research lacks diversity, which means that Hispanics and other minority populations could be missing out on important advances in medicine. The report reviewed current research on genetics and health and found that advancements in this area, including personalized medicine, are moving rapidly. However, the report also found that the advancements are not reaching everyone.
Studying Genetics and Health
The collaborative report is titled “Genes, Culture and Health: Ensuring the Best Health Outcomes for All,” and it includes a survey of studies that have investigated genetics, health and clinical applications. The advancements that researchers have made are impressive. We are moving toward a future in which our healthcare will become personalized. With a scan of our genes, healthcare professionals may one day be able to treat us more effectively and more efficiently. Proactive medicine may become more important as we investigate our genes for potential problems.
While the current research looks so promising for health and wellness, the missing piece is minority health. Hispanics and other minority populations are underrepresented in this kind of genetic research. This discrepancy could lead to an important divide, separating those who get the best medicine from those who do not. The report authors also state that this lack of inclusion does not just hurt minorities. It hurts everyone.
Without including sufficient minorities in the studies, researchers will not get the complete picture needed to drive innovations in healthcare. In order to develop the best personalized healthcare, researchers need to include diversity in research. What researchers need to find are genetic variants, which help them learn more about diseases, how to prevent them and how to treat them. With minorities left out of the studies, researchers risk missing important genetic variants. According to the report, only 4 percent of studies investigating genetics for health purposes included people of non-European descent. Not only are ethnic and racial minorities being left out of the research, women are also seriously underrepresented.
FDA Minority Health Research
The FDA’s Office of Minority Health (OMH) is attempting to make up for the lack of minority health research. The OMH sponsors research that involves minority participants, including Hispanics, in order to better represent and involve minorities in all aspects of health research. Examples of studies ongoing through OMH include investigating the barriers to including minorities in studies and clinical trials. Other studies are looking at the relationship between smoking and cancer rates in minority populations, the use of anti-psychotic medications by patients of different races and ethnicities, and how Hispanics in Nebraska use over-the-counter and prescription medications.
The FDA and other organizations are working to improve health and genetic research to include more minorities in studies, and they consider it an important aspect of modern medicine. With the current report, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, along with the FDA, have demonstrated that commitment to diversity and are helping lead the way by shedding light on the situation. Just by proving that Hispanics and other minorities are not well represented, these organizations have started an important conversation. It benefits everyone, not just minorities, to be inclusive in this line of research. When all genes are studied, researchers will be able to improve healthcare and preventive medicine for everyone.