Bill Davenhall presented the formula for good health as “genetics + lifestyle + environment = [health] risks” in his October 2009 TEDMED talk. The basic principle is for one to improve overall health, one must reduce health risks. Physicians routinely ask patients numerous questions about genetics and lifestyle, such as family, medication, surgical, and allergy histories, but rarely, if ever, consider the environmental component, a term Davenhall coins as geomedicine.
The environmental component is difficult to define, but Davenhall boils it down to places you have lived and where you typically spend most of you time (at work, traveling, at home, etc.). Current research and established databases measure a multitude of environmental factors, and doctors have the ability to overlay maps of patients’ environments with, for example, toxic release inventories monitored by the EPA. Doctors can then make inferences about susceptibility, schedule appropriate screenings and tests, and monitor symptoms for geo-specific health conditions like breast cancer or lung disease. In addition, they can provide patients with recommendations for reducing environmental risks.
Davenhall proposes adding a “place history” to the physician questionnaires and incorporating this data into electronic health records. This will allow for easy analysis and help health professionals and researchers understand larger environmental trends and risks and, in turn, work to mitigate these risks to improve the health of all people.
How do you think your past environments and current environment are influencing your health?