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An Empirical Test of the Materialist Framework for Understanding the General Population's Reaction to Nonpersonalized Genetic Health Messages

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Genetic health messages are increasingly prevalent in our society. The materialist framework of laypeople's genetic knowledge may provide a good basis for understanding the effects of such messages on preventive behavior and related health cognitions. This study provides an empirical test of the predictions of this framework. We presented 929 participants who were aware or unaware of the existence of genetic risk factors for salt sensitivity with either a genetic health message or a general health message about salt sensitivity. Baseline, immediate follow-up, 1-month follow-up, and 6-month follow-up questionnaires assessed risk perception, intention, and salt consumption. Compared with the general health message, previously unaware participants reported lower susceptibility to, and lower severity of, salt sensitivity and lower intentions to restrict salt intake immediately after reading the genetic health message, but not at the 1- and 6-month follow-ups. No such effects were observed for previously aware participants. In addition, the authors observed no effect of health message type on self-reported salt consumption. The authors' findings support the validity of the materialist framework for understanding laypeople's knowledge of genetics. On the basis of the results, several implications were deduced for public education of genetics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School for Public Health and Primary Care, Department of Health Promotion, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Publication date: 01 May 2011

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