Original Research

Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 572-592

First online:

Attitudes and Beliefs of African-Americans Toward Genetics, Genetic Testing, and Sickle Cell Disease Education and Awareness

  • Katie A. LongAffiliated withDepartment of Human Genetics, University of PittsburghChildren’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Email author 
  • , Stephen B. ThomasAffiliated withDepartment of Health Services Administration, University of Maryland
  • , Robin E. GrubsAffiliated withDepartment of Human Genetics, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Elizabeth A. GettigAffiliated withDepartment of Human Genetics, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Lakshmanan KrishnamurtiAffiliated withDivision of Hematology, Oncology, and Bone Marrow Transplant, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

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Research among African-Americans indicates this population perceives sickle cell (SCD) to be a serious disease and sickle cell trait (SCT) screening an important intervention. However, studies have consistently demonstrated a lower than desired uptake of SCD education, inadequate knowledge regarding personal and family trait status, and a low perceived susceptibility of giving birth to a child with the disease. We examined general attitudes and beliefs regarding genetics and genetic testing including prenatal testing and newborn screening; we used this information as the foundation to more specifically assess attitudes and beliefs regarding SCD and perceived barriers to SCD education and awareness. Thirty-five African-American adult men and women participated in one of four focus groups. Thematic analysis identified that both prenatal testing and newborn screening are acceptable forms of genetic testing. Based largely on their personal experiences, participants possessed an understanding of the natural progression of SCD but had a limited understanding of the inheritance and probable risk of giving birth to a child with the disease. Barriers to education and greater awareness of SCD were classified as personal, familial, and societal. Community based interventions focused on sharing the stories of individuals with first-hand experiences with SCD should be considered.


Sickle cell disease African-American Health belief Qualitative research Thematic analysis Genetic testing Genetic counseling