One Community’s Effort to Control Genetic Disease

In 1989, we established a small community health clinic to provide care for uninsured Amish and Mennonite children with genetic disorders. Over 20 years, we have used publicly available molecular data and sophisticated technologies to improve diagnostic efficiency, control laboratory costs, reduce hospitalizations, and prevent major neurological impairments within a rural underserved community. These actions allowed the clinic’s 2010 operating budget of $1.5 million to save local communities an estimated $20 to $25 million in aggregate medical costs. This exposes an unsettling fact: our failure to improve the lot of most people stricken with genetic disease is no longer a matter of scientific ignorance or prohibitive costs but of choices we make about how to implement existing knowledge and resources.