THE UNITED STATES’ HEALTH CARE SYSTEM is expensive, with spending on health care reaching 17.9 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), or $3.3 trillion in 2016. However, this increased spending does not seem to equate to better health or health care. In fact, the U.S. suffers significantly more from preventable diseases and health complications than other developed nations, in addition to suffering from a decreased life expectancy compared to other developed nations, which spend less on health care.

Chronic diseases—among seven of the top ten killers in the U.S.—cost over $1 trillion annually. Research suggests that almost two-thirds of U.S. adults have one or more chronic diseases, which are largely preventable. The mounting burden of chronic diseases, coupled with an aging population, requires better and earlier health interventions while cutting health care costs. The U.S. needs a more innovative way to provide care for patients—which is where precision health comes in.


PRECISION HEALTH focuses on improving overall health and preventing disease, rather than treating disease. Using individual patient information like genetics, environmental and psychosocial factors, and lifestyle, precision health as an emerging discipline seeks to predict illness and to keep people healthy. One of the major goals of precision health is to reengineer, and ultimately transition, a health system focused on reactive “sick care” to one focused on proactive “health care.”Precision health is revolutionizing health care delivery, treatment, and prevention. Precision health and precision medicine shift the focus from a one-size-fits-all approach to individualized health care delivery. By incorporating patients’ genetic makeup, lifestyle choices, psychosocial indicators, and environmental factors, providers may be better suited to prevent diseases and detect them earlier in life.

The goal of precision medicine is to offer individualized, targeted, and highly-tailored approaches to treatment, in addition to identifying risk factors and preventing the early onset of disease. Precision health takes the concept of precision medicine further by using the same targeted, predictive tools like using genetics and lifestyle information, but in a preventative capacity. By better understanding which factors make a patient unique, a provider can tailor treatment or preventative services.

This Giving Smarter Guide provides a comprehensive look at precision health and addresses unmet needs in the field, including where philanthropic investments may be of greatest use.

In this report, and in all of our research and analyses, we strive to provide deep scientific insight into the issues and to outline a concrete and actionable set of options for all philanthropists—no matter their size or location. We welcome all feedback regarding our findings, as well as partners in our quest to advance scientific knowledge through philanthropy.