While genes per se do not provide a complete explanation for understanding racial and ethnic health disparities, it is possible that a person’s genes could interact with other factors, such as lifestyle and environment, to influence health disparities.
The NIH award that established SPHERE is one of the first programs funded under President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which seeks to gain better insights into the biological, environmental and behavioral influences on diseases in the United States.
Defining Precision Medicine
The National Academy of Medicine defines Precision Medicine as “tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient to classify patients into populations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease or in their response to a specific treatment. Preventive or therapeutic interventions can be concentrated on those who will benefit, sparing expense to and side effects in those who will not.”
The National Institute of Health defines Precision Medicine as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.”
Defining Precision Health
Precision Health is a fundamental shift to more proactive and personalized health care that empowers people to lead healthy lives. Stanford Medicine is driving this transformation by leveraging the art and science of medicine to predict and prevent disease before it strikes and diagnose/cure it decisively if it does.
When describing Precision Health efforts at Stanford, Lloyd Minor, MD, Dean of the Stanford School of Medicine was quoted in Forbes Tech stating “the vision would be to go beyond Precision Medicine: instead of a frantic race to cure disease after the fact, we can increasingly focus on preventing disease before it strikes. By focusing on health and wellness, we can also have a meaningful impact in reducing healthcare costs. At Stanford, we call this idea Precision Health, where we focus on helping individuals thrive based on all the factors that are unique to their lives, from their genetics to their environment."
SPHERE Focus Group participants preferred a definition of “Precision Health” adapted from the US Precision Medicine Initiative as “a way of dealing with disease prevention and treatment that takes into account people’s individual differences in genes, environment and lifestyle”.