Practices and Attitudes toward Returning Genomic Research Results to Low-Resource Research Participants

Public Health Genomics. 2021;24(5-6):241-252. doi: 10.1159/000516782. Epub 2021 Jul 6.


Introduction: Many research programs are challenged to accommodate low-resource research participants' (LRRP) ancillary care needs when returning genomic research results. We define LRRP as those who are low income, uninsured, underinsured, or facing barriers to act upon the results returned. This study evaluates current policies and practices surrounding return of results (RoR) to LRRP, as well as the attitudes of investigators toward providing ancillary care to LRRP.

Methods: A semi-structured interview study was conducted with representatives of 35 genomic research programs nationwide. Eligible programs were returning, or planning to return, medically actionable genomic results to participants.

Results: Three content categories emerged from this study, including: (1) RoR structures, (2) barriers to RoR to LRRP, and (3) solutions to meet community and LRRP needs. Three major structures of RoR emerged: (1) RoR Embedded in Clinical Care, (2) RoR Independent of Clinical Care, and (3) Reliance on Clinical Partnerships to Facilitate RoR. Inadequacy of program resources to address the needs of LRRP was commonly considered a significant obstacle. The attitudes and views of informants regarding responsibility to provide ancillary care for LRRP receiving genomic results were highly varied. Some informants believed that genomic sequencing and testing was not a priority for LRRP because of other pressing issues in their lives, such as housing and food insecurity. Research programs differ regarding whether clinical and social support for LRRP is considered within the purview of the research team. Some programs instituted accommodations for LRRP, including social work referral and insurance enrollment assistance.

Conclusion: Support to access downstream treatment is not readily available for LRRP in many genomic research programs. Development of best practices and policies for managing RoR to LRRP is needed.

Trial registration: NCT02156102.

Keywords: Genomics; Health equity; Research ethics; Return of results; Underserved communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Genomics* / methods
  • Humans
  • Poverty*
  • Research Personnel

Associated data