During the 1980s, we have witnessed an erosion in federal and state funding for the coordination of genetic services in state health departments. As this decade begins, the federal budget for the support of the national genetics program is less than half of the total available in 1980. In addition, priorities in state maternal and child health programs have changed, and genetic services have often received lower rankings aside of programs to improve prenatal care and to address problems such as teenage pregnancy. Clearly we are at a critical point for the future of genetics programs in the public health arena. Fortunately, despite the problems with funding and priority setting, important coalitions have been built during the past decade and continued advances in medical genetics have made it difficult for public health officials to ignore the potential impact of genetic services. Council of Regional Networks for Genetic Services (CORN) and the regional genetic services networks have provided opportunities for interaction and coordination between genetic services providers and public health officials that had not been available to any significant extent. The full potential of these coalitions has yet to be realized, but efforts in data collection, development of national guidelines and standards, and information sharing and networking have already had an influence on state genetic services programs. Continuing research on the genetics of chronic diseases and the influence of discoveries in molecular genetics will undoubtedly broaden the current scope of state public health programs in genetics, which all too often have been limited to newborn screening and administration of grants for genetic services. The regional and national genetic services programs should be strengthened and appropriate training programs should be developed in Schools of Public Health to provide the expertise and leadership that will be needed to guide the future of genetics in public health.
Key wordsgenetic services public health regional networks
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