Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

3 Personalized Medicine Barriers that We Can Knock Down Today

Posted on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

 According to the Personalized Medicine Coalition (PMC), personalized medicine is "... the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient…to classify individuals into subpopulations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease or their response to a specific treatment..." [emphasis ours]. It's an exciting proposition that could -- in the long run -- reduce health care costs overall, and offer individuals the best available treatments for them as people instead of the best available treaments for a disease.

So what's stopping us? There are lots of reasons that a personalized approach to medicine isn't yet part of the mainstream, but here is a roundup of 3 things standing between you and customized medical treatments.

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Tags: family health history, personalized medicine

Using Family Health History to Find "The End of Illness"

Posted on Thu, Mar 15, 2012 @ 06:00 AM

The Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" -- a tool developed by 5AM and a team of collaborators -- was recently referenced in the the book "The End of Illness" by David B. Agus. Dr. Agus is professor of medicine and Engineering at USC Keck School of medicine. He is the founder of Oncology.com and served as attending physician and as head of the Laboratory of Tumor Biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In "The End of Illness," Agus suggests that as a society we should change our view of health and wellness, and offers that we have been thinking about our bodies in an incorrect manner. One interesting concept the author addresses is how certain diseases and conditions can be addressed through early detection and changes to habits and lifestyle. Essentially, we shouldn't focus on the late stage solution for a particular condition if it is possible to prevent the condition to begin with. Agus suggests natural behavioral "prescriptions" -- such as wearing a comfortable pair of shoes and eating lunch at the same time every day -- can improve one's health. He also explores the positive and negative consequences of different drugs and the statistics behind the change in death rates of particular conditions over the last few decades as certain drugs have been introduced to the market. 

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Tags: cancer, family health history, My Family Health Portrait, Microsoft HealthVault, HealthVault, Dr. David Agus, The End of Illness, personalized health plans

RIP SOPA (Hopefully?), Hello National Patient Identifier (Again!)

Posted on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 @ 06:00 AM

SOPA certainly made a big name for itself over the past few weeks. The Stop Online Piracy Act, and it’s Senate sister bill PIPA (Protect IP Act) has been halted in both the House and the Senate after a day of protest from thousands of websites worldwide, including Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit. These web giants encouraged their users to stand up and write their representatives urging them to vote against this nasty piece of legislation which would enable censorship over the internet by private corporations who believe that foreign websites are linking and hosting content that they own.

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Tags: national patient identifier, electronic health records, family health history, electronic health record, SOPA

Three Neat Things About Family Health

Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

Next week is Thanksgiving (already?). My family is descending on my house to enjoy time together, veggies, pie, and Tofurky (that’s how we roll). The country’s Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, will mark the day as the seventh annual “National Family Health History Day,” to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.

Here are three reasons why it’s useful to know your family health history:

1. Because we all know that diseases can “run in the family”

Most of us are marginally aware that family history can play a role in many common diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Some of us think about our grandfather's heart attack before we eat that cheesesteak. And we've all completed the form at doctor’s offices - the chart where you put check marks to link diseases with your family members. The reason doctors collect this information is because it gives them a quick glimpse into the disease history within our families, which they then use to consider our risk of developing certain diseases. 

Every day, the family history is used by physicians to assess disease risk, determine whether screening is required, and help us understand our risks of passing diseases to our own children. It’s valuable information, worth collecting.

And knowing our history can help us change our habits. In my case, my grandfather’s early death from heart disease and my mother’s high cholesterol were factors in my decision to become a vegetarian. Knowing the truth about the family’s health is often enough to compel many people to change smoking, drinking, diet, and exercise habits.

2. Because it’s proven that family history is the best predictor of disease risk

The concept of a disease “running in the family” is real. A study last year found that a family health history is better at predicting disease risk than genomic screening: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/family-history-predictor-disease-risk-genomic-screening/story?id=12055615

In his book The Language of Life, geneticist (and HHS head) Francis Collins writes that “family health history turns out to be the strongest of all currently measurable risk factors for many common conditions, incorporating as it does information about both hereditary and shared environment…Surely the kind of information you and your doctor should know and incorporate into your own health care.”

The bit about “shared environment” is especially key – not only do we share genes with our family, but we tend to live with or near our families (at least some of them). So regardless of whether a disease’s cause is hereditary or environmental, the history can tell us a lot.

3. Because it’s easy

Whether by jotting down a note that Aunt Edna died of breast cancer, or using more sophisticated paper or web-based tools to collect your family health history, or going all the way with personal genetic services like 23andMe, many people now are taking their health information into their own hands, assembling, recording, and saving their family health history for the benefit of their own health and that of their family members. Because it’s easy, and because it makes sense.

While you’re chowing down next Thursday, expressing thanks for all you have and are, take a couple of minutes to gather your family’s health history. It’s a simple way to understand the story of your own health.

Here are some ways and means to do so:

Happy Thanksgiving from 5AM--Share stories, thoughts and comments, on family history or Tofurkey, by commenting below.

-Leslie Power, 5AM Solutions

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Tags: electronic health records, genomics tools, health IT, family health history

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