Why Medics Need to Know about Genetics; Dr Emma Tonkin Is a Senior Research Fellow within the Genomics Policy Unit (GPU) at the University of Glamorgan. She Is Currently Looking at the Role Nurses and Midwives Play in Providing Genetics Information to Individuals and Families

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

Why Medics Need to Know about Genetics; Dr Emma Tonkin Is a Senior Research Fellow within the Genomics Policy Unit (GPU) at the University of Glamorgan. She Is Currently Looking at the Role Nurses and Midwives Play in Providing Genetics Information to Individuals and Families


TONY* is married with children.

He has been hospitalised many times throughout his life because of a genetic condition and is now afraid of going back into hospital because staff often don't know enough about his illness.

Lesley* suffered a heart attack at just 33 and tragically her son died aged 23 of the same condition; an inherited form of high cholesterol.

Genetic conditions are often thought to be rare, but Tony has the most common inherited blood disorder (sickle cell disease) and the condition in Lesley's family also affects one in 500 of the population.

Each is the result of a change to the usual DNA sequence of genes that are found in every one of us.

We know that genes also play a role in most common diseases including stroke, asthma and cancer.

In fact by the age of 60, six out of 10 people are likely to have developed a disease that is at least in part genetically determined.

Every day, science provides us with a better understanding about our genes, what they do, their role in health and illness and how they are affected by our lifestyles and the environment in which we live.

These scientific advances are changing healthcare.

Genetic information can be used to make a more accurate diagnosis for some people, provide more personalised predictions of disease risk, develop new screening tests, drugs, therapies and better targeted treatments to improve patient outcomes.

What this means is that health professionals need to know about genetics. They need up-to-date education to offer care and support to patients and their families and to incorporate new advances into healthcare services.

Nurses and midwives play a central role in the NHS and outnumber doctors by more than two to one.

They are often best placed to spend time talking to individuals and families to help them understand their personal health situation. …

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