Examining the role of language competency in genetic testing awareness among adults in the United States

J Genet Couns. 2022 Apr 6. doi: 10.1002/jgc4.1576. Online ahead of print.


English language competency, as a component of health literacy, is associated with increased awareness and uptake of health-related genetic testing. The relationship between language competency and genetic testing awareness has not yet been explored in the wider U.S. population yet has significant implications for the practice of genetic counselors and in the promotion of genomic medicine for public health. We analyzed data from the 2017 Health Information National Trends Survey 5 Cycle 1 using weighted logistic regression to model the relationship between self-reported English competency, genetic testing awareness, and race and explore adjusted odds ratios and average marginal effects for levels of English competency. Compared to respondents with high English competency, the probability of genetic testing awareness was 20 percentage points lower for White participants reporting moderate English competency (p = .029) and 37 percentage points lower for non-White participants reporting low English competency (p < .001). Future research is needed to understand the mechanisms through which English competency affects awareness and uptake of genetic testing in the United States and to develop strategies to overcome language barriers for the practice of genetic counselors and the implementation of genetics services.

Keywords: disparities; genetic testing; health literacy; underrepresented populations.