APH 2004, 62, 5-14:

Genetics and prevention: work at risk or "workers at risk" ?

A. Thébaud-Mony

Keywords: Occupational health, science, genetic susceptibility, social relations

In public health, two theoretical models underlie the epidemiological studies and public action in health. These models are founded on an implicit framework of the relationship between health and society. After a brief presentation of these models, this paper emphasises on the context in which the research about genetic susceptibility and genetic testing is taking place. Historically, in France, the tradition of the occu­pational medicine is under the influence of the rationalisation of the work­force management. Questioning the references of such a tradition, social movements put the necessary changes in working conditions as a priority of the labour policies during almost thirty years. But the "genetisation" of the society as a whole is giving a very strong framework to the pres­sure of the employers to get quickly genetic testing. The balance between the conception of selection practices and the strategies of prevention is now giving priority to the first one to the detriment of the other. Nevertheless, are the scientists able to answer to such a demand? And if it is the case, what about the worker's rights to occupational health ? Such questions are discussed in this paper.