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Community Genet. 2005;8(3):161-72.

Attitudes about genetics in underserved, culturally diverse populations.

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Clinical Directors Network, Inc., New York, NY 10605, USA.



New medical discoveries regarding genetic susceptibility to common chronic diseases, and the decoding of the human genome have increased public attention to genetics. What information is understood and what attitudes exist towards genetics and genetic research have not been well examined in underserved, culturally diverse communities.


To better understand attitudes and beliefs towards genetics and genetic testing in these groups, we conducted eight focus groups with 55 patients and health care workers in New York City and Westchester, N.Y., in English, Spanish, and Chinese.


Focus group participants had limited understanding about genetics or genetic testing. Newborn screening was the least-known genetic issue, even among health care workers. Regardless of their cultural group, most participants expressed a desire for more information about genetics and genetic tests. Latinos and Chinese participants generally expressed positive attitudes towards genetic studies and genetic testing, with the possibility of preventing diseases cited as the main advantage. Black Americans and Non-Hispanic Whites reported mixed feelings about genetic research and genetic testing. Concerns expressed included: anxiety before receiving test results or waiting for a disease to develop, fear of genetic discrimination by health and life insurance companies and employers, not having the financial means to deal with genetic diseases in themselves or a sick child, concern that children and adults are having too many tests. Black Americans expressed the most concern for possibly harmful use of genetic information.


Minority populations of diverse cultures have limited knowledge about genetics and genetic testing, would like to have more information, and are not well reached by the current educational approaches. Participants knew the least about newborn screening, a test that is mandatory in the New York State. While genetic knowledge by minority populations was perhaps not different from the level of knowledge of consumers in general, minority populations are at particular risk of being left behind because of historically poor access to information and services.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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