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J Epidemiol Community Health 64:585-586 doi:10.1136/jech.2009.090308
  • Research agenda

Advancing public health genomics in Africa through prospective cohort studies

  1. R S Ramesar3
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Medical Research Council Human Genetics Research Unit, Division of Human Genetics, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and Allied Hospitals, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shona Dalal, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA; sdalal{at}hsph.harvard.edu
  • Accepted 21 November 2009

Abstract

Human genomic studies have revolutionised science in high-income countries through large cohort studies (on the order of 100,000+ participants) which examine a multitude of risk factors. Yet Africa, with the most genetically diverse population in the world, large burdens of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and unique environments and risk factors, has no such large studies which comprehensively examine multiple interacting risk factors for disease. We argue that establishing such studies is overdue. Scientific discoveries from large cohort studies can drive innovation, foster training and local capacity building, and provide vital evidence for public health decision making. Furthermore, evidence from studies in Africa could provide insights to disease processes relevant to other populations around the globe. The enormous potential for genetic and epidemiologic discovery in Africa should not continue to go untapped. Combining powerful genomic tools with epidemiology through large cohort studies could dramatically advance public health in Africa.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.