Reducing health inequities and addressing social factors are the keys to improving the health of the American population, not personalized medicine, according to a letter from two public health scholars published online August 6 in the NEJM.

“There is now broad consensus that health differences between groups and within groups are not driven by clinical care, but by social-structural factors that shape our lives,” wrote Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, and Ronald Bayer, PhD, co-director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Without minimizing the possible gains to clinical care from greater realization of precision medicine’s promise, we worry that an unstinting focus on precision medicine by trusted spokespeople for health is a mistake — and a distraction from the goal of producing a healthier population.” 


“We need a careful recalibration of our public health priorities to ensure that personalized medicine is not seen as the panacea for population health,” Dr. Galea. “We would love to see the same enthusiasm directed to research initiatives that would affect the health of millions of people, such as treatments of chronic diseases, and policy changes to address poverty, substance use, and access to education.”