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Population Frequenly Asked Questions

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

Q: What is the role of genomics in population-level health research?

Even though some public health professionals think that genomics belongs in medical research because of its individualized nature (since every person’s DNA is unique), genomics has an important place in public health as well. Researchers in public health genomics aim to understand how disease affects different populations, to determine which individuals are at greater risk for a disease, and to identify which individuals or groups might benefit from earlier prevention efforts. Genomics promises to provide new insight into how genetic susceptibility might be affected by environmental and lifestyle factors that maintain health or cause disease. Understanding the relationships among these factors at the population level may provide new opportunities for prevention and intervention.

Q: How can genomics help in public health investigations (PHIs)?

A: CDC is known world-wide for conducting investigations in response to public health emergencies and, by doing so, improving people’s daily lives. Collecting and analyzing human genomic data in these investigations can help us to understand why some people get sicker than others with the same disease, as well as what environmental exposures may be important. These findings can help refine public health interventions, such as vaccination programs, in order to protect the public.

Q: What is the NHANES III DNA Bank?

A: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) is a nationally representative survey of the U.S. population conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The NHANES database includes demographic, health history, and health behavior characteristics; numerous physical and physiological measurements; and detailed nutritional and biochemical analyses. The U.S. Genome Variation Estimates, published by CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics in 2008, are the first allele frequency and genotype prevalence estimates of human genetic variants for the entire U.S. population. These data will provide the basis for multiple analyses of gene-disease associations and gene-environment interactions, in order to find out more about the relationship between the gene variants (genotypes) and multiple health outcomes (phenotypes), including asthma, diabetes, obesity, blood lipid levels, and infectious disease susceptibility.