Medical genetics education assumes particular importance in LMIC with high frequency of genetic disorders and, generally, low level of genetics literacy. It is often erroneously assumed that medical training equips doctors to provide adequate genetic counselling, but current teaching methods in many LMIC rarely prepare medical graduates in a manner that enables them to discuss complex issues with their patients or help patients reach their own decisions. In most LMIC, health services are delivered by a network of primary health-care centres in which the staff consists of medical graduates who have not undertaken any higher specialization, and whose only formal exposure to medical genetics occurred during their undergraduate years (Hamamy & Bittles, 2009).
While family medicine physicians and paediatricians may be more knowledgeable in providing genetic counselling, they are aware of the possibility of potentially serious diagnostic misunderstanding and therefore may be reluctant to deal with genetics problems, which they consider as complex, sophisticated and difficult. A basic and essential strategy for the prevention of genetic disorders in LMIC would be to energetically formulate and implement ongoing short courses in genetic counselling for health-care providers.
Training and teaching on genetics services delivery include the following:
- Programmes for the teaching of medical genetics to all health professions (physicians, nurses, psychologists, public health professionals, etc.) both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Workshops for medical school leaders and faculty in developing countries to establish competencies and a core-curriculum in clinical genetics at community level, tailored to national and regional
- Special courses and workshops for public health professionals and health policy-makers on the relationship between genetics, community health and public In addition to health professionals, key targets for workshops in genetics education are: policy-makers and opinion leaders, parent–patient organizations, journalists, and the general public.
- Development of educational materials for different targets according to local needs. Such educational materials should be culturally appropriate and harness the advances in information technology (CD roms, Internet, etc.). One example is the course on community genetics offered by the Geneva Foundation of Medical Education and Research (GFMER, 2010).
- The ethical, legal and social implications of community genetics services and their supporting genomic technologies should be an integral part of the education in genetics at all levels and for all targets (WHO 2006a).