The study explores the impact of workplace genetic testing on employee health behaviors

genetic testing

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Genetic testing is not yet a standard component of workplace wellness programs, but what if it were? Researchers at the Jackson Laboratory and the University of Michigan aim to answer this question and consider the ethical and social implications associated with such offers.

The work published in the August issue of Genetics in medicineprovides real-world employee perspectives following employer-sponsored genetic testing, as well as valuable insights into how employers make informed decisions about integrating genetic testing into their wellness programs.

The future of personal health

“Genetic testing may very well be the way of the future when it comes to personal health,” said Kunal Sanghavi, MBBS, MS, CGC, Associate Director of Genetic Counseling at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine and one of the study’s leaders. . .

“These findings are very important to the research we’re doing at JAX, studying genetic markers and applying them to personalized medicine that can deliver targeted care to patients who need it most.”

The survey-based study recruited participants from a large health care system employing approximately 30,000 individuals who were offered workplace genetic testing (wGT) as part of their health benefits.

The wGT program, established in the fall of 2018, used a third-party testing service that included genes associated with increased risk for cancer and heart disease. Genes that promote drug response (pharmacogenes) were also included—this type of testing can reveal an individual’s metabolic response to certain medications, as well as susceptibility to side effects.

Of the 776 online survey respondents, 418 chose to have genetic testing and received results. The online survey collected information about the use of health services and their health behaviors after receiving the test results.

About 12% of the 418 workers who opted for testing reported receiving results indicating an increased risk for cancer, and 9.5% received results indicating an increased risk for heart disease. These individuals were 8.6 times more likely to follow a health care professional and 3.23 times more likely to make a health behavior change.

Furthermore, among those who received genetic testing at their workplace, 31.4% received results from pharmacogenomic testing that they felt could be informative about their future use of prescription drugs.

“The majority of participants reported that receiving their genetic test results satisfied their curiosity about their health (74.7%),” said Elizabeth Charnysh, MS, CGC, a genetic counselor at JAX and lead author of the study.

She noted that employees with negative test results (ie, no apparent increased risk of cancer or heart disease) were more likely to think that their test results reassured them that they were healthy.

“However, all individuals have a baseline risk for cancer and heart disease. Having a negative test result also does not negate other factors that may increase a person’s risk for cancer or heart disease, such as lifestyle lifestyle and family history,” Charnysh said. so these findings raise some concerns about false reassurance and a lack of understanding among employees.”

The wider implications of genetic testing in the workplace

The study is part of a larger project titled “Ethical, Legal, Social and Political Implications of Genetic Testing in the Workplace.” The project, led by Charles Lee, Ph.D., FACMG, scientific director and Robert Alvine Family Chair and professor at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, and University of Michigan professor Scott Roberts, Ph.D., is employing A multi-step approach to gather the perspectives of employees and employers regarding genetic testing in the workplace.

The aim is to help guide the future of wGT across the country. Charnysh also notes that insights from wGT could also inform other new genetic testing initiatives that are designed to be offered to others in the general population.

Future research by this team will delve deeper into the ethical frameworks and broader implications of genetic testing in the workplace, including its potential benefits, potential harms, and considerations for maximizing the former and minimizing the latter. .

“It was encouraging to see that many employees who learned from the wGT results about their increased risk for cancer and heart disease were taking steps that could help prevent disease in the future,” said Roberts, a professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“However, it will be important for future studies to examine whether these potential health benefits are actually realized among workers undergoing wGT.”

More information:
Elizabeth Charnysh et al, Health Care Utilization and Behavioral Changes After Workplace Genetic Testing in a Large US Health Care System, Genetics in medicine (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.gim.2024.101160

Provided by Jackson Laboratory

citation: Study explores impact of workplace genetic testing on employee health behaviors (2024, June 21) retrieved on June 21, 2024 from employee.html

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