Race and ethnicity is a touchy subject—and rightfully so—but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed, especially in terms of healthcare.
The fact is, certain genetic diseases pop up in higher percentages amongst people of one race class versus another—kind of like 17-year cicadas, hiding for years and years in the dark areas of the country before showing their heads.
The point I’m trying to make is that ethnicity plays a factor in our health that we shouldn’t ignore, which is why groups like the Montreal Jewish Genetic Disorders Fund (MJGDF) encourage genetic testing so strongly.
In their case, they’re focusing their efforts specifically on people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, who find themselves vulnerable to a number of hereditary conditions:
- Tay-Sachs Disease
- Familial Dysautonomia
- Canavan Disease
- Gaucher Disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Neimann-Pick Disease
The list goes on. According to the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium, almost 1 in 3 people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage in the US can be classified as a carrier for one or more of 19 different diseases.
It sounds scary, but fortunately, not only is genetic testing readily available for curious or concerned parents-to-be, but also if you live in Ontario, the public health care system will fund screenings for nine conditions.
Genetic testing could help parents better prepare for health possibilities that their children—even grandchildren—could face. And when there’s so little else in life you can prepare for, facing a genetic disease with understanding and knowledge can make a big difference.
So I encourage everyone out there who’s considering children, please also consider genetic testing.
At least from where I’m sitting, it’s better to have the answers before you even need to use them.