Bridging the communication divide: A role for health psychology in the genomic era

Kenneth P. Tercyak, Suzanne C. O'Neill, Debra L. Roter, Colleen M. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The application of genomics to population health has the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine. Indeed, discoveries into the genomic basis of cancer and other common chronic diseases have resulted in new and improved predictive tests for identifying individuals at increased risk for these conditions and long before their onset occurs. When used properly, information gained from predictive genomic tests can be combined with other leading indicators (e.g., environmental and behavioral risk factors) to inform medical management decisions, preventive health practices, and risk-reducing strategies. However, genomics remains an emerging science and the translation of genomic discoveries into improved population health management remains elusive. There are divides in the translational science continuum at several junctures, and many of these divides could be narrowed or closed with additional data. For example, we know relatively little about how to effectively communicate with the public about the complex interplay among genomics, behavior, and health. Moreover, there is a need to develop better methods of counseling and educating the public in light of newly emerging knowledge about the genomic basis of health and disease. We assert that the discipline of psychology, and health psychology in particular, is well-poised to continue to make significant contributions to this growing area of science and practice. Through a focus on health-related social and behavioral research, psychology can lead the way in overcoming divides in communication, understanding, and action about genomics for the betterment of both individual and public health practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-575
Number of pages8
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Behavior
  • Communication
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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