The community has become increasingly engaged with genomics during the public health response to COVID-19. As contact tracing, variants and sequencing have become household words, many more Australians are aware of the important role genomics has played during the pandemic.
In its election statement, Genomics and precision medicine in Australia: Priorities for an incoming government, InGeNA says the incoming government has the opportunity to build on Australia’s growing genomics expertise and enable consumers to benefit from the new age of precision health.
Precision health, underpinned by the field of genomics, is relevant today to all Australians regardless of where they live.
Precision health can ensure that people reach the right diagnostic test and receive the right treatment at the right time, reducing the diagnostic odyssey experienced by many patients.
Australia has leveraged existing genomics expertise and systems to support our public health response in a way that has allowed us to track viral variants and support contact tracing whilst still preserving individual privacy. That same expertise will support us beyond COVID, on our path to recovery.
InGeNA has recommended three priorities for the incoming government:
- Transparency and predictability of funding decisions
The federal government could improve equity of access to genomics by working with the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) to ensure recommendations for funding genomic applications are implemented in a timely manner. Funding arrangements for genomic diagnostics and treatments should be consistently available to ensure Australians can benefit from genomics wherever they live.
- Supporting a skilled genomics workforce
The federal government should work with the relevant parties to ensure adequate funding for the training and placement of genetic counsellors and genomic pathologists. There should be sufficient training for clinicians to support patients and identify opportunities to reduce the diagnostic odyssey faced by patients with genetic conditions.
- Access to genomic data for research and clinical practice
There needs to be a federated approach to storing genomic data that supports clinical and research applications. Australians should be engaged on issues such as consent and data sharing, so they make informed choices about how their health data is shared for clinical or research use.