NEW YORK– Jewish individuals seeking to learn about the many genetic health conditions they may be at risk for can self-educate at GeneSights (www.GeneSights.com), a new online education resource conceived by the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. GeneSights is designed to provide effective and accessible learning at the viewers’ convenience and to encourage these viewers to become active in ensuring their own health and well-being. The program was established so that anyone in the Jewish community facing a genetic health issue would not be deprived of proper care due to lack of awareness, financial barriers or difficulty in navigating the healthcare system.
GeneSights consists of individual “lessons” with topics selected based on their current relevance to the Jewish community, including specific diseases and medical conditions, genetic technologies and bioethical issues. The site’s inaugural lesson focuses on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and, more specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Mutations in these genes are responsible for the vast majority of hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer, and are found in approximately 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish men and women, regardless of cancer history. In addition to the inaugural lesson, GeneSights also is pre-loaded with a two-part “Genetics 101” webinar to serve as a genetics overview for the typical viewer who may desire a baseline lesson.
Most GeneSights lessons begin with a short public service announcement video of the topic, available to the general public and featuring real people disclosing their personal health stories. Viewers interested in learning more about the featured topic are then directed to register on the site, for free, for access to a full-length webinar presented by an expert in the field, supplemental written materials to serve as practical next steps, and links to other resources and organizations dedicated to the specific subject. Once registered, viewers are able to access all other GeneSights lessons.
New lessons will appear on GeneSights approximately every two months. One upcoming disease topic is Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two conditions more prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. On the technology front, GeneSights will explore pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a reproductive option for couples who are identified to be at increased risk for passing a genetic condition on to their offspring.
“Advances in scientific research have identified many genetic diseases and conditions that are commonly found amongst Jews,” said Nicole Schreiber-Agus, PhD, scientific and programming director for the Program for Jewish Genetic Health. “In addition, advances in technology, and in genetic testing in general, continue to impact routine healthcare.GeneSights is designed to provide the Jewish community with easy access to user-friendly, actionable information, as well as a better general grasp of the field of genetics and its associated opportunities and limitations.”
Seed funding for the GeneSights series was provided in part by UJA-Federation of New York and by a generous grant in honor of Beatrice Milberg.
For more information, visit www.GeneSights.com or www.yu.edu/genetichealth.
By Bruce Lander