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Genomics and Public Health Practice: A Survey of Nurses in Local Health Departments in North Carolina

Irwin, Debra E. PhD, MSPH; Millikan, Robert C. DVM, PhD; Stevens, Rachel EdD; Roche, Myra I. MS, CGC; Rakhra-Burris, Tejinder MA; Davis, Mary V. DrPH, MPH; Mahanna, Elizabeth P. BA; Duckworth, Sara BS; Whiteside, H. Pennington Jr MSPH

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: November/December 2004 - Volume 10 - Issue 6 - p 539–544
Original Articles

In order to examine the extent to which current public health practices incorporate information about genetic susceptibilities potentially obtained by a comprehensive family history, public health nurses in North Carolina were surveyed to assess the extent to which this information is routinely collected. In addition, we measured nurses' awareness of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Genomic Competencies and assessed training needs related to genomics. A self-administered survey was distributed to all public health nurse supervisors, directors, consultants as well as Breast and Cervical Cancer Coordination Program managers in North Carolina. A 68.4% response rate (292/427) was obtained. The majority (88.7%) of nurses with regular patient contact report routine gathering of family history data for adult chronic diseases. Some key family history data components are routinely collected including the total number of affected relatives (76%), ethnicity information (57.5%), and age of chronic disease onset (31.8%). A minority of nurses (9%) reported awareness of the Genomic Competencies, and most (72.1%) acknowledged their need for training in order to achieve these competencies. Information collected by taking a family history can indicate a combination of genetic and environmental susceptibilities for chronic diseases.

This article describes survey results that examined the extent to which current public health practices incorporate information about genetic susceptibilities that are potentially obtained by a comprehensive family history, as well as measuring nurses' awareness of CDC's Genomic Competencies and assessed training needs related to genomics.

Scientific Coordinator, North Carolina Center for Genomics and Public Health, and Research Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Irwin)

Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Millikan)

Clinical Professor, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Stevens)

Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Roche)

Project Director, North Carolina Center for Genomics and Public Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Rakhra-Burris)

Program Evaluator, The North Carolina Institute for Public Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Davis)

Education Coordinator, North Carolina Center for Genomics and Public Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Mahanna)

Research Technician, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Duckworth)

Deputy Director, The North Carolina Institute for Public Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Whiteside)

Corresponding author: Debra E. Irwin, PhD, MSPH, North Carolina Center for Genomics and Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, CB# 8165, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. (e-mail: dirwin@email.unc.edu).

This project was supported under a cooperative agreement from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), Grant Number U36/CCU300430–22. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or ASPH.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.