Recommendations for public and professional genetics education

17 April 2011

The final report from the US Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society (SACGHS) has been released, outlining recommendations for the genetics education of clinical and public health professionals, patients and the public.
The SACGHS charter officially ended on 28 February 2011, following a final meeting in October 2010 (see previous news). This last report, Genetics Education and Training, is the result of a three year investigation including public consultation, and makes key recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including:
  • A task force to identify ‘innovative approaches to prepare health professionals for the genomic age’
  • Mechanisms to ensure genetics is incorporated into electronic health records, and health professional training and accreditation
  • Strategies for consumer and patient education about genetic knowledge relevant to health decisions
  • An internet portal to facilitate access to ‘comprehensive, accessible, and trustworthy web-based genetic information and resources’ for consumers
  • Improved use of family history tools
It is additionally suggested that genetics education and training needs should be re-evaluated ‘within 5 years’.

Comment: The task of ensuring that the evolving educational needs of health professionals and the public with respect to genetics and health are met over the coming years is an immense challenge. The report proposes that, without the SACGHS, responsibility for implementation of these recommendations should pass to federal bodies such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health. The danger is that, without suitable oversight and coordination, efforts may be fragmented and their impact necessarily reduced. Bodies such as the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics could play an important role, but tackling patient and consumer education is another major hurdle.


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