2009 Healthy Development Adelaide Award

Professor Eric Haan AO

Professor Eric Haan AO was presented with the Healthy Development Adelaide Award at the 5th annual HDA Oration ‘Genetics and Disease in Children’.

Professor Haan is Head of the South Australian Clinical Genetics Service, a unit of SA Pathology based at Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and a Clinical Affiliate Professor in the Discipline of Paediatrics, University of Adelaide.

He spends most of his professional time providing individuals and families with genetic diagnosis, counselling and testing. Academic interests include the genetics of intellectual disability, ethical issues associated with genetic testing, the causes and prevention of birth defects and cerebral palsy, and the development and ethical use of genetic health services.

He has been a member of several national committees addressing issues related to genetics and is a past President of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia and the International Federation of Human Genetics Societies.

Oration overview: A newborn baby has both a genetic past and a genetic future. The genetic past comprises the sequences of genes inherited from parents and the effect on those genes of both genetic and environmental factors during the child's development from conception. The fact that environment plays a part raises the possibility of modifying prenatal environment for the better. In a similar way, the child's genetic future will be influenced by how the genome interacts with its environment. To what extent can we know what the future holds for a child’s health by knowing its DNA sequence and the modifications to DNA and gene expression that have occurred during prenatal and postnatal development? Do we really want to know what the future may bring and if so, why? Can anything be done to improve an individual child's health by knowing and to what extent can such information be used on a population basis to improve population health.

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