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Awareness of Premarital Screening and Genetic Counseling among Saudis and its Association with Sociodemographic Factors: a National Study

Authors Al-Shroby WA, Sulimani SM, Alhurishi SA, Bin Dayel ME, Alsanie NA, Alhraiwil NJ

Received 10 December 2020

Accepted for publication 2 February 2021

Published 17 February 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 389—399


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Walid A Al-Shroby,1,2 Suha M Sulimani,3 Sultana A Alhurishi,4 Maram E Bin Dayel,1 Nora A Alsanie,3 Najla J Alhraiwil1

1Evaluation & Impact Measurement Unit, Deputyship of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 2Public Health & Community Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine, Beni-Suef University, Beni Suef, Egypt; 3Healthy Marriage Program, Deputyship of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 4Community Health Sciences Department, College of Applied Medical Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence: Najla J Alhraiwil; Walid A Al-Shroby
Evaluation & Impact Measurement Unit, Deputyship of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 11176, Saudi Arabia
Tel +966 566088192
; +966 594707808

Background: Premarital screening and genetic counseling (PMSGC) is compulsory in Saudi Arabia and aims to identify and decrease the prevalence of some genetic and sexually transmitted infectious diseases. However, there are little data on community awareness about PMSGC. This study assessed knowledge levels, attitudes, and behaviors associated with PMSGC in the general Saudi Arabian population and their associations with sociodemographic characteristics.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional, population-based study of 6263 participants randomly selected from all 20 health regions in Saudi Arabia, stratified according to age and fulfilling predefined selection criteria. Trained data collectors used a comprehensive pretested questionnaire to collect data. Data were collected in March and April 2019. Univariable and multivariable associations between sociodemographic characteristics and knowledge levels, attitudes, and behaviors were examined.
Results: While all 6263 study participants had heard about PMSGC, only 575 (9.2%) participants had satisfactory knowledge, while 3283 (52.4%) participants had fair knowledge. Predictors of high knowledge scores were university or higher education level (aOR=2.06; 95% CI: 1.80– 2.36), positive medical history of PMSGC-screened disease (aOR=2.02; 95% CI: 1.51– 2.69), family income ≥ 3000 SR/month (aOR=1.70; 95% CI: 1.50– 1.93), being married/previously married (aOR=1.46; 95% CI: 1.25– 1.70), female gender (aOR=1.25; 95% CI: 1.12– 1.40), and age > 18 years (aOR=1.25; 95% CI: 1.06– 1.48). The majority of participants (5246, 83.8%) had positive attitudes towards the importance of PMSGC, the burden of screened genetic and infectious diseases on the family, and that marrying was inadvisable with incompatible results. Of the 3986 engaged or married participants, 2911 (73.0%) had undertaken premarital screening, of whom 360 (12.4%) had incompatible results; 98 (37.1%) married despite this information.
Conclusion: Despite advances in public healthcare measures in Saudi Arabia, gaps remain in the knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors associated with PMSGC. Culturally specific community health education programs for PMSGC must be devised that emphasize the risks associated with consanguineous marriage.

Keywords: premarital, screening, genetic counseling, consanguinity, Saudi Arabia

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