Don’t buy those pointless gene tests

The weekend’s coverage of the ‘genes for longevity’ is yet another in a long line of genetic studies that tell us nothing that we didn’t already know. However it sows another seed of unrealistic expectation in the mind of the public who are increasingly being led to believe that ‘it’s all in the genes’ and that there are imminent genetic solutions to all man’s problems. And quite what NHS Choices is doing covering stories like these is puzzling. We have no choice over our genetic make-up, there is no relevant gene therapy or even valid tests – where is the choice?!

Meanwhile the Human Genetic Commission have backed away from protecting the public from the 21st century quackery of over-the-counter genetic tests, instead producing a set of ‘principles’ to which we’re not sure if anyone who will pay any attention, or held accountable. Why is it that we are allowing ‘medical’ tests to be sold in a consultation and counselling vacuum? Why is it that tests with questionable analytical validity, little or no clinical validity or any clinical utility are being allowed take shelf space in the local chemist? Do we allow DIY ultrasound or blood tests? No – so why are we being so weak-willed on over-the-counter gene tests?

About Julia Manning

Julia is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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