As way of background, he explained:
Today, most people’s interactions with the medical system are sporadic or driven by disease. They may have an annual physical exam, or routine checkup, but only go to the doctor when they have an issue. Our healthcare system is built around this model, with physicians compensated by insurers and government programs primarily for providing sick care.
But, he continued, it doesn’t have to be this way. Given “unprecedented access to innovative technologies and research… we can approach medicine from a more personal angle, tailoring health care to the unique biology and life circumstances of each individual. This approach is called precision health, and it has the potential to transform both our profession and our patient’s lives.”
Precision health is something that can benefit all individuals, including those who might not normally have access to the latest medical innovations. Minor elaborated:
The Stanford Precision Health for Ethnic and Racial Equality (“SPHERE”) Center, a project we launched last year, is one way that Stanford is applying precision health principles to critical health issues. Among the initiatives at the SPHERE Center is an effort to better understand how various factors contribute to obesity in low-income Latino children in a Santa Clara County neighborhood.
Through this program we are seeking answers to some vital questions. For example: Are Latino children more likely to be obese than Caucasian children in low-income communities? What is the role of genetics in determining obesity? What potential cultural factors exist, such as dietary customs, daily schedules, and more?
Understanding the answers to these questions will inform the medical community’s approach to make a difference in the children’s lives and the community’s long-term health.
Through the SPHERE Center and other projects, researchers and clinicians can apply the tools of biomedical and data science to prevent diseases before they appear. “Healthcare systems must follow suit, finding ways to provide support for ongoing wellness care — not just sick care,” Minor concluded.