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January 2016

Precision Treatment and Precision PreventionIntegrating “Below and Above the Skin”

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Center on Social Dynamics and Policy, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(1):9-10. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2786

In 2015, President Obama unveiled “a new research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease,” based on the premise that accounting for “individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles” will improve both disease prevention and treatment.1,2 Most of the history and current application of these concepts, however, has focused on treatment over prevention. If the scientific community is not vigilant, emphasis on successful treatments for small subsets of patients may overshadow prevention efforts to improve the health of all Americans. We contend that integrating 2 paradigms of research, both of which aim to understand “what works, for whom, and under what circumstances,” can lead to a sounder balance of treatment and prevention. Advances in precision can benefit both halves of this effort and ultimately have the potential to integrate them.

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