If we are able to materialise these opportunities, it will contribute to a shift from cure to prevention. Exposome has the potential to contribute substantially toward addressing two significant challenges in the healthcare domain, namely increasing healthcare costs and a shortage of medical staff.
We intend to develop preventive tools to convert exposome data into actionable feedback and advice. Thereby optimising the impact that exposome technology and knowledge will have on preventing disease. Given the relative immaturity of exposome research, at the moment no example projects exist.
However, TNO has a track record in personalised health which makes use of similar digital data streams and sense-reason-act principles to convert it all into actionable advice taking into account behavioural sciences. This has also provided valuable insights into ethical and privacy issues that accompany the use of personalised data.
Specifically for the workplace, we have developed information sheets that describe how sensors can be applied and for what purposes. The information sheets show advantages and disadvantages of these applications and address possible ethical issues that may arise during the introduction of sensors in the workplace.
Apart from technical challenges, the application of exposome technologies also brings about challenges. The use of wireless devices and the storage of information on the Internet leads to potential security concerns, for example.
Furthermore, if these technologies are to be applied for assessing external and internal exposure to environmental stressors, then privacy and ethical issues should be addressed.
Issues concerning data ownership and data protection need to be clarified and structured if the desired ubiquitous exposome monitoring is to become an everyday reality. Therefore, TNO uses the concept of “privacy by design” in all of the different domains to ensure user empowerment, transparency and data security.
How can we improve our health system by using personal data, while at the same time protect the privacy of clients?
Exposure in the workplace can lead to many diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Current risk reduction policies and strategies are informed by existing scientific evidence. This evidence is limited due to challenges related to studying the complex relationship between exposure on the work floor and outside, and health.
Taking a working-life exposome approach will mean a great step for occupational health science. We define the working-life exposome as all occupational and related non-occupational exposures (e.g., lifestyle, behaviour). TNO leads the EU EPHOR consortium which aims to develop knowledge, methods and tools to characterise the working-life exposome.
What kind of opportunities does our applied exposome programme offer for effective prevention of diseases?