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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Are public health professionals prepared for public health genomics? A cross-sectional survey in Italy

Carolina Marzuillo, Corrado De Vito, Maddalena D’Addario, Paola Santini, Elvira D’Andrea, Antonio Boccia and Paolo Villari*

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, Rome 00185, Italy

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:239  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-239

Published: 28 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Public health genomics is an emerging multidisciplinary approach, which aims to integrate genome-based knowledge in a responsible and effective way into public health. Despite several surveys performed to evaluate knowledge, attitudes and professional behaviors of physicians towards predictive genetic testing, similar surveys have not been carried out for public health practitioners. This study is the first to assess knowledge, attitudes and training needs of public health professionals in the field of predictive genetic testing for chronic diseases.

Methods

A self-administered questionnaire was used to carry out a cross-sectional survey of a random sample of Italian public health professionals.

Results

A response rate of 67.4% (797 questionnaires) was achieved. Italian public health professionals have the necessary attitudinal background to contribute to the proper use of predictive genetic testing for chronic diseases, but they need additional training to increase their methodological knowledge. Knowledge significantly increases with exposure to predictive genetic testing during postgraduate training (odds ratio (OR) = 1.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.05–2.88), time dedicated to continuing medical education (OR = 1.53, 95% CI = 1.14–2.04) and level of English language knowledge (OR = 1.36, 95% CI = 1.07–1.72). Adequate knowledge is the strongest predictor of positive attitudes from a public health perspective (OR = 3.98, 95% CI = 2.44–6.50). Physicians show a lower level of knowledge and more public health attitudes than other public health professionals do. About 80% of public health professionals considered their knowledge inadequate and 86.0% believed that it should be improved through specific postgraduate training courses.

Conclusions

Specific and targeted training initiatives are needed to develop a skilled public health workforce competent in identifying genomic technology that is ready for use in population health and in modeling public health genomic programs and primary care services that need to be developed, implemented and evaluated.

Keywords:
Public health genomics; Predictive genetic testing; Public health professionals; Cross-sectional survey; Knowledge and attitudes; Training needs