How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Genes Don’t Cause Racial-Health Disparities, Society Does

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-27 19:24Z by Steven

Genes Don’t Cause Racial-Health Disparities, Society Does

The Atlantic

Jason Silverstein, Teaching Fellow in Anthropology
Harvard University

Researchers are looking in the wrong place: White people live longer not because of their DNA but because of inequality.

On April 24, 2003, shortly after the completion of the human genome project, its director Francis Collins and his team posed 15 grand challenges to the scientific community. They dared researchers to harness the genome to crack puzzles of biology, health, and society. In particular, they called for genome-based tools to close health disparities. Since then, the United States has pumped more than $1 billion a year into genomics research. What do we have to show for it?

“What we found in the literature published from 2007 to 2013 was basically nothing,” said Jay Kaufman, the lead author of the first study to examine available genetic data for evidence that explains a major racial-health disparity. For many years, researchers speculated that what they couldn’t explain about disparities must be the fingerprint of some mysterious genetic component. But since they are now able to scan the entire genome, this speculation appears both lazy and wrong. When it comes to why many black people die earlier than white people in the U.S., Kaufman and his colleagues show we’ve been looking for answers in the wrong places: We shouldn’t be looking in the twists of the double helix, but the grinding inequality of the environment.

It is no secret that a longer life is a white privilege in the U.S. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that white men lived more than four years longer than black men, and white women lived more than three years longer than black women. The main reason for the racial mortality gap is heart disease. “There’s a huge number of years of life lost because some people have the black life expectancy and not the white life expectancy,” Kaufman said. “It’s killing people prematurely on the basis of race.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Genetics: No evidence of role in racial mortality gap

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-03-20 00:48Z by Steven

Genetics: No evidence of role in racial mortality gap

Science Daily: Your source for the latest research news

There is still no evidence of genetic difference between blacks and whites to account for the health disparities in cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new study by McGill University researchers. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers suggest that after a decade of genetic studies, factors such as lifestyle, education and socio-economics — not genetics — are more promising avenues to understanding racial health disparities.

The researchers focused on cardiovascular disease, the largest contributor to the racial mortality gap, and conducted a systematic review for articles published over a seven year period in which genetic data from African and European populations were available. The team found no explanation for racial disease disparities amongst any of the hundreds of genetic variants reported.

“After nearly a decade of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), no assessment had yet been made of their contribution toward an explanation of the most prominent racial health disparities observed at the population level,” says Jay Kaufman, of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health in the Faculty of Medicine…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Contribution of Genomic Research to Explaining Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-03-18 01:31Z by Steven

The Contribution of Genomic Research to Explaining Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review

American Journal of Epidemiology
First Published online: 2015-03-01
DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwu319

Jay S. Kaufman, Professor
Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Lena Dolman
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dinela Rushani
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Richard S. Cooper, Anthony B. Traub Professor of Community and Family Medicine
Stritch School of Medicine
Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois

After nearly a decade of genome-wide association studies, no assessment has yet been made of their contribution toward an explanation of the most prominent racial health disparities observed at the population level. We examined populations of African and European ancestry and focused on cardiovascular diseases, which are collectively the largest contributor to the racial mortality gap. We conducted a systematic search for review articles and meta-analyses published in 2007–2013 in which genetic data from both populations were available. We identified 68 articles relevant to this question; however, few reported significant associations in both racial groups, with just 3 variants meeting study-specific significance criteria. For most outcomes, there were too few estimates for quantitative summarization, but when summarization was possible, racial group did not contribute to heterogeneity. Most associations reported from genome-wide searches were small, difficult to replicate, and in no consistent direction that favored one racial group or another. Although the substantial investment in this technology might have produced clinical advances, it has thus far made little or no contribution to our understanding of population-level racial health disparities in cardiovascular disease.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Addressing Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Best Practices for Clinical Care and Medical Education in the 21st Century

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-09-14 18:21Z by Steven

Addressing Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Best Practices for Clinical Care and Medical Education in the 21st Century

University of Texas, Austin
2013-09-23 through 2013-09-24

One of the primary goals of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, and many public health programs is the reduction of health disparities in the United States. However, significant racial/ethnic disparities persist in the prevalence of disease, access to medical care, quality of care, and health outcomes for the most common causes of death (including cardiovascular and lung disease, infectious disease, cancer, diabetes, and accidents). At this conference, nationally-recognized speakers will discuss the causes of such disparities and describe new approaches in clinical care and medical education that improve care, achieve better health outcomes, and reduce racial/ethnic health disparities. We will also discuss how these best practices can be incorporated into medical training at the new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas and at other medical schools around the country. One key goal of this conference is to help design a cutting-edge curriculum that will better prepare medical students to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century medicine.

Conference registration is open to anyone interested in attending this event. See the Continuing Medical Education (CME) tab for information regarding continuing education for the September 23rd portion of the conference.

The second day of the conference (September 24) is open to invited participants only. Discussions and working groups on the second day will focus on developing new pedagogical approaches and innovative learning modules for the pre-clinical curriculum at the Dell Medical School, with the goal of more effectively integrating training on human genomic variation, race/ethnicity, health disparities, and social/environmental determinants of health into the medical curriculum.


For more information, click here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book review: What’s the use of race? Modern governance and the biology of difference

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2011-12-15 02:08Z by Steven

Book review: What’s the use of race? Modern governance and the biology of difference

Number 634 (2011-11-21)

Dr. Rachael Panizzo

Decoding the human genome has revealed details of our evolution and patterns of migration across the world. The study of genetic diversity between ethnic groups can help explain the ways in which race influences our biology and susceptibility to disease. It promises to deliver a new era of personalised medicine, where an individual’s unique DNA profile is used to make predictions about their future health; where specialised drugs are tailored to individual patients, based in part on their genetic ancestry.

But what do we mean by ‘race’, exactly? Is race a relevant biological or medical category, and how is it defined in practice?

These issues are considered in the collection of essays What’s the use of race? Modern governance and the biology of difference, edited by Dr Ian Whitmarsh of the University of California San Francisco, and Dr David Jones at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The contributors explore the use of race in biomedical research and some of the emerging practical applications in medicine and forensic science. Their diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives result in an engaging book that highlights the complexity of the issue.
Genetics has become the foundation of a new ‘biocitizenship’, where it is our civic duty to know and share our own genetic information and engage with our health at a molecular level. Common genetic make-up replaces common social experience, and group identities are carved along lines of shared genetic traits, ‘reinterpreting existing political identities and creating new ones’, says Professor Dorothy Roberts, from Northwestern University. Social and political categories of difference—such as gender or race…

…In the medical setting, subtle statistical differences are often interpreted as blanket differences between races, and individual patients are assumed to reflect the average characteristics of their race. But Jay Kaufman, associate professor of epidemiology at McGill University, and Professor Richard Cooper, of Loyola University, Chicago, demonstrate that in practice, a patient’s ethnic identity adds little to the diagnosis or prognosis of disease and is rarely medically relevant.

The essays of Professor Jonathan Kahn (Hamline University), and Pamela Sankar, associate professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania emphasise how embedded racial categories are in forensic science, giving examples of DNA fingerprinting and phenotyping. Originally, racial information was used in DNA fingerprinting technology to improve accuracy, but as it has improved substantially, Professor Kahn argues it is now superfluous, irrelevant, and risks perpetuating racial stereotypes – ‘conflating race, genes and violent crime’…

…Should race be used at all in medical research? Many authors argue that its inclusion reifies the concept of race as a fundamental human characteristic. But Dr Kaufmann, Professor Cooper, and Harvard School of Public Health Professor Nancy Krieger suggest race does have a place in biomedical research, as a social category—including information about race or ethnicity is a way of documenting health inequalities, which would otherwise be invisible and ignored….

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,