Helping physicians understand genetic risk

25 November 2008

The American College of Preventative Medicine (ACPM) is developing a continuing medical education programme entitled: Genetic Risk, Screening and Intervention. The course is aimed at improving physicians’ understanding of  “genetic risk factors for disease, the current evidence about the use of genomic tools and technologies to determine risk, and promising practices for utilizing those tools to aid in disease prevention” (see press release). Components of the course include comparing and contrasting the evidence for genetic screening and risk factors to epidemiological approaches to identify disease risk, exploring the harms and benefits of different types of genetic tests and examine the evidence around genome wide association (GWA) studies.

Risk prediction based on genetic factors, especially for common complex disorders such as diabetes is complex process (see previous news). Physicians are increasingly required to understand emerging genetic technologies and their relative merits in determining risk and the impact this has on health care. In addition, as genomic tools become available online direct-to-consumer, physicians need to be informed about them in order to provide accurate advice to their patients. In the UK, the NHS National Genetics Education and Development Centre works with various groups to facilitated genetics education at all levels for all professionals.