Emory Report
January 20, 2009
Volume 61, Number 16



Emory Report homepage  

January 20
, 2009
Exploring new frontier of predictive health

By Robin Tricoles

If you weren’t born in the Southeast and didn’t move here until you were 21, your odds of suffering a stroke are lower than your Southeastern born and bred counterparts, says Daniel Lackland, professor and director of graduate training and education in the department of biometry and epidemiology and the division of cardiology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“If you were not born in the Southeast, but you’re living here, you have a protective factor,” explained Lackland, speaking last month at the fourth annual Emory/Georgia Tech symposium on predictive health. “There’s something that’s happening in the early life that seems to make the difference.” In fact, the Southeast includes a jagged geographic area known as the Stroke Belt.

What may be happening in stroke and other diseases has become an important area of interest among researchers and health care providers alike and is now part of medicine known as predictive health. Predictive health is a new paradigm that defines the unique characteristics that predict disease risk for individuals and populations. It uses new discoveries in biomedicine to emphasize health maintenance and health recovery — rather than the treatment of disease.

Although predictive health emphasizes quality of life through health maintenance, predictive health also promises to bolster the economic fitness and quality of U.S. health care.

“We can all agree that the last few months are the beginning of a new economic as well as a new political era in the United States. And therefore, the time is right for some new solutions to our broken health care delivery system. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the predictive, personalized health approach is one of the innovative answers to our current health care crisis,” said Fred Sanfilippo, Woodruff Health Sciences Center CEO.

The symposium, “Human Health: Molecules to Mankind,” focused on the biomedical factors that integrate biology, behavior and environment and emphasized maintaining health rather than treating disease.

Other topics at the symposium included new ways of defining and measuring health, economic benefits of health promotion and disease prevention, the metabolic determinants of health, pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine, and predicting health all the way from the laboratory to large population groups. The Dec. 15-16 symposium attracted more than 350 attendees and included speakers from academia, industry, and government. The presentations will soon be available on the predictive health Web site at http://predictivehealth.emory.edu.