Background: Many authors have raised ethical, legal, and social concerns about the use of screening tests that also identify genomic information not immediately relevant to a disease. Newborn screening identifies cystic fibrosis (CF) and sickle cell hemoglobinopathy (SCH) early, but at the cost of psychological harm that develops in a substantial minority of parents whose infants are found to be heterozygous for CF or SCH. Primary care providers'limited genetic knowledge and communication skills may then lead to disparities in communication outcomes. This project is intended to help public health to develop a mechanism for early identification and treatment of psychosocial problems that develop after newborn genetic screening.
Aims : [Aim 1] To closely examine and clarify the communication experience of parents after newborn screening identifies an infant as a carrier for sickle cell or cystic fibrosis, including [1a] the frequency of ideal communication behaviors likely to be experienced in primary care, and [1b] knowledge, misconceptions, scores on Marteau's 6-item version of the Spielberger state-anxiety subscale and the vulnerable baby scale. [Aim 2] To investigate factors that may influence parents'psychosocial and cognitive outcomes after newborn screening identifies an infant as a carrier for sickle cell or cystic fibrosis, including [2a] the frequency of ideal communication behaviors likely to be experienced in primary care, [2b-c] parents'report about counseling from the primary care provider and other sources, and [2d] interaction effects with other factors such as parents'reported prior knowledge and individual characteristics of parents and providers. Methods: This project will be conducted under statutory authority of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. The study will recruit parents and primary care providers of infants found via newborn screening to be heterozygous for SCH or CF will be recruited using a series of mailings and telephone calls designed to maximize safety and respect for privacy. Investigators will (a) contact primary care providers and invite them to rehearse on tape what will be said to parents, and (b) conduct a telephone interview with parents 4 months later to ask about anxiety, misconceptions and other psychosocial problems. Interview transcripts will be abstracted to obtain process and outcome data using explicit-criteria methods from previous studies. Anonymous written surveys will be used to evaluate the interview process. Significance: It is hypothesized that a substantial minority of parents experience psychological or cognitive problems after newborn screening and that many primary care providers fail to adequately communicate screening results. This study may be able to shed better light on associations between these two problems, and also demonstrate a statewide mechanism for following up on psychosocial risks. Progress in this area may address many ethical concerns and generalize to other areas of communication in health care.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Human Genetics Study Section (ELS)
Program Officer
Werner, Ellen
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Medical College of Wisconsin
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Ahmad, Nadia Y; Farrell, Michael H (2014) Linguistic markers of emotion in mothers of sickle cell carrier infants: what are they and what do they mean? Patient Educ Couns 94:128-33
La Pean, Alison; Farrell, Michael H; Eskra, Kerry L et al. (2013) Effects of immediate telephone follow-up with providers on sweat chloride test timing after cystic fibrosis newborn screening identifies a single mutation. J Pediatr 162:522-9
Farrell, Michael H; Christopher, Stephanie A (2013) Frequency of high-quality communication behaviors used by primary care providers of heterozygous infants after newborn screening. Patient Educ Couns 90:226-32
Collins, Jenelle L; La Pean, Alison; O'Tool, Faith et al. (2013) Factors that influence parents' experiences with results disclosure after newborn screening identifies genetic carrier status for cystic fibrosis or sickle cell hemoglobinopathy. Patient Educ Couns 90:378-85
La Pean, Alison; Collins, Jenelle L; Christopher, Stephanie A et al. (2012) A qualitative secondary evaluation of statewide follow-up interviews for abnormal newborn screening results for cystic fibrosis and sickle cell hemoglobinopathy. Genet Med 14:207-14
Bradford, Lisa; Roedl, Sara J; Christopher, Stephanie A et al. (2012) Use of social support during communication about sickle cell carrier status. Patient Educ Couns 88:203-8
Christopher, Stephanie A; Collins, Jenelle L; Farrell, Michael H (2012) Effort required to contact primary care providers after newborn screening identifies sickle cell trait. J Natl Med Assoc 104:528-34
Christopher, Stephanie A; Ahmad, Nadia Y; Bradford, Lisa et al. (2012) A method to assess the organizing behaviors used in physicians' counseling of standardized parents after newborn genetic screening. Commun Med 9:101-11
Farrell, Michael H; Speiser, Jodi; Deuster, Lindsay et al. (2012) Child health providers' precautionary discussion of emotions during communication about results of newborn genetic screening. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 166:62-7
Farrell, Michael H; Christopher, Stephanie A; Tluczek, Audrey et al. (2011) Improving communication between doctors and parents after newborn screening. WMJ 110:221-7

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