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Director's Update

23 November 2016

Last week I was challenged to think deeply about strategies that would ensure optimal health of our community. On the one hand, I heard a presentation about the promise and allure of personalised medicine. The value proposition is that applying population means to an individual to determine treatment disregards our genetic and phenotypic susceptibilities. More specific, tailored treatments would arise from the crunching of a mass of data.

Wide uptake of personalised medicine is predicated upon the supposition that compliance and behavioural change is augmented when an individual is confronted with the knowledge about their specific risk profile. The oxymoronic future of population health is that it will be all about you.

On the other hand, I read in the New York Times that Australia is the country in the world that tops the charts in gambling losses. Last year Aussies amassed a staggering $17.5 billion dollar deficit through our national obsession with horses, scratchies, pokies and the rest.

A friend of mine comments that when one walks through a pokie hall, no one has a happy look on their face. This is but one manifestation of a condition that carries the symptomatology of bankruptcy, homelessness, depression, suicide and domestic violence.

Improving the health of our nation will require us to get the diagnosis right as to what is the cause of our maladies. It is ironic that zeal for personalised medicine leverages off the concept that individuals will be more empowered to manage their health, yet proponents of gambling suggest that problem gambling is about 'individual responsibility' and claim people should use will power to avoid gambling to excess.

Personalised medicines sound attractive but before we are seduced by its allure, let us think more deeply about from where real health benefits will truly ensue. - Jonathan Morris, Director


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