Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Public Health Genetics - Experiences and Challenges

International Symposium of the ZiF Cooperation Group 2003/04

Date: February 19 - 21, 2004
Scientific Organizers: Angela Brand (Bielefeld), Alfons Bora (Bielefeld), Notburga Ott (Bochum)

The developments in human genetics have launched a discussion about a changing comprehension of health and disease as well as about new approaches of prevention and therapy. But which consequences can be drawn from this knowledge and how can this knowledge be responsibly translates into policies and practice? Now it becomes obvious already that the inclusion of genetic information into health promotion measures - the original task of public health - will be one of the most important challenges for the future. The necessity of weighing up benefits and risks of predictive genetic tests, the necessity of assessing the benefits of preventive strategies as well as the necessity of analyzing complex new problems (such as for example the commercializing of predictive genetic tests, the availability and equal access to these services as well as potential discrimination) support the idea that public health should urgently get involved and moreover take a leading role. This is the task of Public Health Genetics.
Compared with the USA and other European countries such as Great Britain and the Netherlands, Public Health Genetics has up to now neither been established nor institutionalized in Germany. Thus public health not only runs the risk of ignoring pioneering developments which are presently taking place in these countries but it also risks being isolated from international discussions in this field and thus being a less attractive cooperation partner in international research.
The aim of the international symposium is to integrate Germany into the international dialogue which is already going on. It is intended to evaluate the state of development of Public Health Genetics in the different countries and to draw comparisons. If possible, joint objectives and research projects will be identified.

In context with the symposium, Alf Thum und Volker Stollorz will hold a public lecture on "The Gene Shop – A Social Experiment". All interested members of the public are cordially invited to this event. In their lecture, they will talk about a "gene-shop" that they have set up in Bremen in order to try to sell "genetic tests" and other "genetic intervention" to the public as an experiment to test how far people might be willing to go. The project was initiated by Alf Thum, supported by the Federal Center for Political Education, and is critically observed by Volker Stollorz, science journalist of the Frankfurter Allegemeine Sonntagszeitung. You can find more information on the "Gene-Shop" at

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