Last updated: May 21, 2012
Box 6 Education
Marked health improvements from integrating genomics into individual and public health care depend on the effective education of health professionals and the public about the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in health and disease. Health professionals must be knowledgeable about genomics to use the outcomes of genomics research effectively. The public must be knowledgeable to make informed decisions about participation in genomics research and to incorporate the findings of such research into their own health care. Both groups must be knowledgeable to engage profitably in discussion and decision-making about the societal implications of genomics.
Promising models for genomics and genetics education exist (see, for example, NCHPEG [nchpeg.org]), but they must be expanded and new models developed. We have entered a unique 'educable era' regarding genomics; health professionals and the public are increasingly interested in learning about genomics, but its widespread application to health is still several years away. For genomics-based health care to be maximally effective once it is widely feasible, and for members of society to make the best decisions about the uses of genomics, we must take advantage now of this unique opportunity to increase understanding. Some examples are:
- Health professionals vary, both individually and by discipline, in the amount and type of genomics education that they require. So multiple models of effective genomics-related education are needed.
- Print, web and video educational products that the public can consume when actively seeking genomic information should be created and made easily available.
- The media are crucial sources of information about genomics and its societal implications. Initiatives to provide the media with greater understanding of genomics are needed.
- High-school students will be both the users of genomic information and the genomics researchers of the future. Especially as they educate all sectors of society, high-school educators need information and materials about genomics and its implications for society, to use in their classrooms.