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Human Genome News, January 1998; 9:(1-2)

Coalition Promotes Genetic Education Among Healthcare Professionals

The need for all health professionals to have a basic competency in human genetics is underscored by the explosion of information on the role of genetics in human disease; the development of tests for specific disease genes; and the ethical, legal, and social issues associated with the application of scientific advances in genetics. In response to the rapid pace of human genetics research and its impact on health organizations, the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG) was established in 1996. The coalition hopes to promote and achieve basic genetic literacy among all health professions through active and ongoing discussion, input, and participation from its members.

Catalyzed by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the coalition consists of leaders from more than 100 healthcare professional organizations, consumer and voluntary groups, government agencies, industry, managed-care organizations, and genetics professional societies. The coalition’s goal is to provide an organized, systematic, and national approach to the provision of genetic education for all healthcare professionals.

After the steering committee was organized in July 1996, the coalition held a 1-day meeting of the full membership on March 10, 1997. Top priorities identified by NCHPEG members included the following:

  • Development of a comprehensive, Web-based genetics information center;
  • Development of a core curriculum in genetics for health professionals, to serve as a template that can be modified according to discipline;
  • Integration of genetics into continuing education, certification, and licensure examinations; and
  • Development of a model tool to elicit comprehensive, multigenerational family histories.
The coalition has begun to address these priorities, and interdisciplinary working groups have been or are being formed to focus on each area.

One major activity has been the establishment of an NCHPEG Web site, which currently provides basic information about the coalition and its membership (http://www.nchpeg.org/). The site is being expanded to serve as a coalition communications hub with links to member organization Web pages, an NCHPEG newsletter, and high-quality genetics information sites of interest to healthcare professionals.

Plans are under way to develop a database of current and planned genetics education activities and materials for healthcare professionals. The coalition also is evaluating organizational structure models appropriate for NCHPEG and identifying critical procedures necessary for effective and efficient operations.

The Web site, working group progress and plans, and other coalition activities were presented and discussed at the NCHPEG Steering Committee meeting held November 7, 1997. [Contact: Karina Boehm, NHGRI, 301/402-0955; kboehm@nhgri.nih.gov]

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