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Genetic Approaches to Health Disparities

Genetics, Health and Society

ISBN: 978-1-78350-581-4, eISBN: 978-1-78350-568-5

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 16 July 2015



This chapter explores the rise in genetic approaches to health disparities at the turn of the twenty-first century.


Analysis of public health policies, genome project records, ethnography of project leaders and leading genetic epidemiologists, and news coverage of international projects demonstrates how the study of health disparities and genetic causes of health simultaneously took hold just as the new field of genomics and matters of racial inequality became a global priority for biomedical science and public health.


As the U.S. federal government created policies to implement racial inclusion standards, international genome projects seized the study race, and diseases that exhibit disparities by race. Genomic leaders made health disparities research a central feature of their science. However, recent attempts to move toward analysis of gene-environment interactions in health and disease have proven insufficient in addressing sociological contributors to health disparities. In place of in-depth analyses of environmental causes, pharmacogenomics drugs, diagnostics, and inclusion in sequencing projects have become the frontline solutions to health disparities.


The chapter argues that genetic forms of medicalization and racialization have taken hold over science and public health around the world, thereby engendering a divestment from sociological approaches that do not align with the expansion of genomic science. The chapter thus contributes to critical discussions in the social and health sciences about the fundamental processes of medicalization, racialization, and geneticization in contemporary society.



Bliss, C. (2015), "Genetic Approaches to Health Disparities", Genetics, Health and Society (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 71-93.



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