Though race itself is not a biological variable, groups that self-identify as a given race may share biologic characteristics that originate from either common genetic lineage or shared environmental factors. At least that’s how medicine intended to translate race into practice. As you might expect, the usefulness of this information is often muddied, which in turn accelerates an epidemic of health disparities between these social constructs.
Vence Bonham and his team at the National Health Genome Research Institute mention this fallacy in a recent NEJM perspective:
Race is often used in screening decisions and in decisions with regard to what drugs to start an individual on. But when you start to use that for a whole group, there may be some individuals that will benefit from that approach and some who will not.
Last year President Obama announced a $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative that aims to right these wrongs by identifying…
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