“If It Helps, It’s Worth a Try”: an Investigation of Perceptions and Attitudes about Genetic Counseling among Southern Manitoba Hutterites

Amber P. Gemmell, Patricia Mc Carthy Veach, Ian MacFarlane, Rachel Riesgraf, Bonnie S. LeRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Few studies have explored the public’s views of genetic counseling services, and even fewer focus on founder populations with high prevalence of genetic disease, such as Hutterites. The Hutterites are an Anabaptist religious group grounded in a strong Christian faith. The primary aim of this study was to assess Hutterites’ views of genetic counseling services. A secondary aim was to compare their views to those obtained in a study of rural Midwestern U.S. residents (Riesgraf et al., Journal of Genetic Counseling, 24(4), 565-579, 2015). One-hundred eleven individuals from southern Manitoba Hutterite colonies completed an anonymous survey assessing familiarity with and attitudes about genetic counseling; perceptions of its purpose, scope and practice; and willingness to use genetic counseling services. Although many respondents were not familiar with genetic counseling, most had accurate perceptions and positive attitudes. For instance, mean ratings showed endorsement of trust in information provided by genetic counselors and agreement that genetic counseling aligns with their values. Logistic regression indicated reported willingness to use genetic counseling services increased if respondents: had a higher self-rated familiarity with genetic counseling; were younger; agreed with the statement: I would trust the information provided by a genetic counselor; and disagreed with the statements: Genetic counseling is only useful for a small group of people with rare diseases, and Genetic counselors help expectant parents choose the eye color of their child. Thematic analysis of comments regarding willingness to use genetic counseling services yielded themes of personal/family risk, pragmatism (genetic counseling is sensible and practical for managing health concerns), and desire to prevent genetic conditions in the Hutterite population. Comparison of the present findings to those of Riesgraf et al. suggests predictors of Hutterites’ willingness to use genetic counseling are unique and culturally-based. Limited replication of Riesgraf et al. was achieved. Additional findings, practice implications and research recommendations are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1357-1371
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc.


  • Attitudes
  • Familiarity
  • Genetic counseling
  • Hutterites
  • Perceptions
  • Southern Manitoba
  • Willingness to use genetic counseling services


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