A new survey conducted by Zogby Research for the American Society of Human Genetics shows that 84% of Americans agree that more human genetics research is needed and 74% support increased federal funding for human genetics research. The survey also confirms the importance placed on confidentiality and security of research data, addressing Americans’ views regarding genetic testing coverage, and highlighting opposition to the use of genetics for insurance coverage or rate-setting.
“When it comes to human genetics, the U.S. public is supportive of research, believes more research is needed, and believes it’s important to national health and their families’ health,” said ASHG president Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, M.D., Ph.D., in a press release announcing the survey results. “It’s exciting how curious and hopeful Americans are about this fast-paced area of research. That said, the survey shows there is still important work to do in educating the public on some genetics basics and how it might benefit them through applications like personalized medicine.”
The ASHG/Research!America survey was launched following a review of existing recent public opinion polls and academic research findings across the topics of genetics and medical research. That review is also being released as a companion resource, providing additional insights and raising important questions regarding public opinion on a broader set of questions than possible to be covered in the current survey.
Other highlight of the ASHG/Research!America survey include:
- Asked to select adjectives expressing their views on genetics research, respondents’ top five selections were “Curious” (59%), “Hopeful” (53%), “Amazed” (42%), and “Optimistic” (42%), followed by “Cautious” (38%).
- 78% of respondents believe that researchers will use genetics to find cures for key diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s disease; 71% think that physicians will be able to use genetic information to inform their health care; 69% believe that people will learn “surprising information” about their heritage or backgrounds; and 60% think that it will be possible to change genes in embryos to prevent severe diseases like sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, or muscular dystrophy.
- While the results showed strong interest in the possibility of genetics to cure disease, only 13% of respondents have taken a direct-to-consumer genetic test; 8%had a genetic test through a hospital or research center; 5% had received genetic counseling; and 5% had participated in research requiring a blood or saliva sample.
- More than 60% report that assurances of data confidentiality and privacy would be the key decision factor in their participation in research, along with the ability to help a loved one’s health or their own.
- While precision medicine is a term that is gaining in recognition, only 30% said they have heard the term.