ABUNDANT LIVING: The future of health care is now

(EDITOR’S NOTE: “Abundant Living” is a weekly column about health and wellness. It will include topics ranging from health and medicine to exercising at home and making wise food choices. The intention is to shed light on topics that affect the choices we make, explore topics that affect the quality of our lives, and have a few laughs along the way.)

In 1997 a science fiction movie starring Ethan Hawke called “Gattaca” was released in theaters. It was set in the near future where every major decision people made was based on genetic profiling. Common things such as naming your child or deciding if your boyfriend was marriage material were strongly influenced by what was in their genetic makeup. People were even promoted, or not, based on their genetic potential.

For pocket change a person could bring a hair sample to a kiosk and within 60 seconds know everything from how likely the owner of the sample was to die from heart disease to the potential intellect of their future offspring. Genetic discrimination was commonplace. Sounds like something out of a Michael Crichton novel doesn’t it?

Well, much of this actually does exist. Except in this case, at least for now, the idea is to customize health care based on one’s genetic make up.

It’s called Genomic Medicine. The idea is that by mapping an individual’s genome, their health plan can be preventative and potentially more effective.

If they show a high risk for a certain type of cancer, for example, their physician might be forewarned and thus more prepared. In San Diego, California, Human Longevity Inc. is doing this very thing. Led by Dr. Craig Ventor, HLI, is offering services such as whole genome mapping and the health nucleus whereby advanced body and brain imaging scans are added to the information their physicians use to create a proactive health care strategy.

If Ventor sounds familiar you might recognize his name in connection with the Human Genome Project, where the goal was to identify and map all of the genes of human DNA from physical and functional perspectives. Arguably one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time.

At this point in time, however, the costs of such testing still are only available to the wealthy.

As with most technology there is always the potential for discrimination and abuse.

For example, if this information were to be abused, a person who has a greater potential for cancer or heart disease might pay higher insurance premiums for health insurance than someone with a more favorable genetic profile.

Why stop there? What about car insurance due to the increased potential for an accident or a mortgage because sick people might not be able to work to make their monthly payments?

I’ll admit, I am a little scared but also fascinated. The potential to do positive, wonderful things also exists. Cancer might be treated before it was even noticeable by standard testing or even prevented all together. Heart disease and other usually preventable diseases could become things of the past.

Regardless of your position of the use of such technology there is no debating that humans are on the verge of a major technological advancement and it is coming sooner rather than later.

Bellomo has a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, is a certified strength and condition specialist and performance enhancement specialist with 24 years in the fitness and wellness field.