"Technology has given us the ability to make a much more comprehensive picture of health outcomes," says Dr. Keith Whitfield, associate professor of biobehavioral health. "We now see, for example, that the origins of racial health disparities can involve both genes and environment and the interactions between them. The crux of the matter is the individual, with her or his unique genetic constitution and history of environmental influences."
Whitfield and Dr. Gerald McClearn, Evan Pugh professor of health and human development, are the authors of a paper, "Genes, Environment, and Race," published in the current issue of American Psychologist. The January issue is a special issue devoted to race in health and social science research.
The researchers write, "Investigations of the origins of health disparities across ethnic groups have traditionally emphasized environmental hypotheses that concentrate on social and economic inequities related to differential health outcomes. The recent explosion of genetic research clearly shows how genes affect individual variation in many aspects of health and illness."
They point out that some diseases, such as phenylketonuria or Huntington's chorea, have been found to be associated with a single major gene. However, they note, that one gene/one disease scenarios are typically not the case. Rather, because of gene/gene and gene/environment interactions, a particular genetic input or particular environmental input may have quite different consequences in different individuals. In addition, although one gene might be regarded as "the" gene for a condition, it is not necessarily "the only" gene for the condit
Contact: Barbara Hale