GECONEU: the new training project on genetic counseling in neurodegenerative diseases
GECONEU "Genetic counseling in European universities: The case of neurodegenerative diseases" is a European project, promoted by 6 organizations including Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona. The aim of this project is to train university students in the healthcare sector in genetic counseling, in order to address the skepticism that exists around the usefulness and benefits of genetic testing as a predictive method for disease.
A training program in genetic counseling
Genetic counseling is a communication process that consists of counseling individuals and families affected by a genetic disorder to help them understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to the disease.
The aim of this project is to develop an innovative learning method to train students in the health sector in how to deliver genetic counseling. To this end, a European protocol will be developed, called "Best Genetic Counseling Protocol", which will combine the different existing protocols and unify them into a final methodological guide that will be the basis for a common approach to effective and safe genetic counseling.
On the other hand, the project will develop an innovative and interactive training course that can be included in the curriculum of European schools of higher education. The course will combine online and face-to-face methods and will focus on training students in genetic counseling and how to offer it to patients. In addition, it will include a practical part in which students will acquire new competencies and knowledge and put into practice communication, empathy and support skills by working directly with families of patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
The final outcome of the GECONEU project will be a guideline manual that will collect the learnings from 4 pilot tests conducted in 4 faculties in 4 different countries, and will help higher education institutions across Europe to implement the training in order to replicate the results of GECONEU.
The importance of genetic counseling
Genetic studies open up a range of possibilities for personalized medicine and disease prevention, especially for healthy people who have a family history and a higher genetic risk of developing the disease. However, the lack of knowledge about genetics at the population level and the poor training of healthcare professionals makes it very difficult to identify people at genetic risk and, even more, to treat them.
The way in which the healthcare professional reports genetic results is decisive. Thus, a bad approach can cause pain, distress, conflict, uncertainty or sadness. On the other hand, when proper training and genetic counseling sessions are carried out, this information can be very valuable and lead to changes in the patient's behavior and some healthy habits (nutrition, medications, and physical activity), functioning as preventive measures.
GECONEU is a project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Program. It is coordinated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) and supported by five other partners, including the Panhellenic Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases (Greece), Ruprecht-Karls-Universitaet Heidelberg (Germany), Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona (Spain), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels) and Izmir Ekonomi Universitesi (Turkey).