A two-year pilot program that promotes genetic disease awareness and offers carrier screening will be introduced in Atlanta as a result of a $1.5 million grant from the Marcus Foundation, the philanthropy of Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus.
The Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases will manage the project, which will provide screening for 17 Jewish genetic diseases and offer genetic counseling. The funds will also be used to promote genetic disease awareness, including via social networking tools.
“The unique thing is a holistic approach from the get-go of planning for two years to penetrate the awareness of, and market simultaneously to, the doctors, the rabbis and the community at large with an integrated plan and program,” said Debby Hirshman, national director of the Victor Center.
She expressed the hope that this approach will “become a model” for other communities.
“It will show how critical communication and marketing is for awareness and prevention, to help insure that people are screened and update their screenings,” she said.
The first of three planned community screenings will likely be held in November, followed by one at the end of January and another at the beginning of April.
The genetic screening is targeted at those between the ages of 22 and 35 who have never been tested. But people who have previously been screened are also encouraged to participate, as new genetic diseases may have been discovered since their last test.
The Victor Center is also partnering in the launch of a two-year community-wide awareness and screening project in Pittsburgh targeting young Jews in cooperation with the local Jewish community and area Hillels.