Public knowledge of and attitudes toward genetics and genetic testing.
BACKGROUND: Variable health literacy and genetic knowledge may pose significant challenges to engaging the general public in personal genomics, specifically with respect to promoting risk comprehension and healthy behaviors. METHODS: We are conducting a multistage study of individual responses to genomic risk information for Type 2 diabetes mellitus. A total of 300 individuals were recruited from the general public in Durham, North Carolina: 60% self-identified as White; 70% female; and 65% have a college degree. As part of the baseline survey, we assessed genetic knowledge and attitudes toward genetic testing. RESULTS: Scores of factual knowledge of genetics ranged from 50% to 100% (average=84%), with significant differences in relation to racial groups, the education level, and age. Scores were significantly higher on questions pertaining to the inheritance and causes of disease (mean score 90%) compared to scientific questions (mean score 77.4%). Scores on the knowledge survey were significantly higher than scores from European populations. Participants' perceived knowledge of the social consequences of genetic testing was significantly lower than their perceived knowledge of the medical uses of testing. More than half agreed with the statement that testing may affect a person's ability to obtain health insurance (51.3%) and 16% were worried about the consequences of testing for chances of finding a job. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the relatively high educational status and genetic knowledge of the study population, we find an imbalance of knowledge between scientific and medical concepts related to genetics as well as between the medical applications and societal consequences of testing, suggesting that more effort is needed to present the benefits, risks, and limitations of genetic testing, particularly, at the social and personal levels, to ensure informed decision making.
Haga, SB; Barry, WT; Mills, R; Ginsburg, GS; Svetkey, L; Sullivan, J; Willard, HF
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