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BMC Public Health

, 11:193

First Online: 30 March 2011Received: 02 June 2010Accepted: 30 March 2011DOI: 10.1186-1471-2458-11-193

Cite this article as: Wong, L.P., George, E. & Tan, JA.M.A. BMC Public Health 2011 11: 193. doi:10.1186-1471-2458-11-193


BackgroundThalassaemia is a common public health problem in Malaysia and about 4.5 to 6% of the Malays and Chinese are carriers of this genetic disorder. The major forms of thalassaemia result in death in utero of affected foetuses α-thalassaemia or life-long blood transfusions for survival in β-thalassaemia. This study, the first nationwide population based survey of thalassaemia in Malaysia, aimed to determine differences in public awareness, perceptions and attitudes toward thalassaemia in the multi-racial population in Malaysia.

MethodsA cross-sectional computer-assisted telephone interview survey of a representative sample of multi-racial Malaysians aged 18 years and above was conducted between July and December 2009.

ResultsOf a total of 3723 responding households, 2846 76.4% have heard of thalassaemia. Mean knowledge score was 11.85 SD ± 4.03, out of a maximum of 21, with higher scores indicating better knowledge. Statistically significant differences P < 0.05 in total knowledge score by age groups, education attainment, employment status, and average household income were observed. Although the majority expressed very positive attitudes toward screening for thalassaemia, only 13.6% of married participants interviewed have been screened for thalassaemia. The majority 63.4% were unsupportive of selective termination of foetuses diagnosed with thalassaemia major.

ConclusionStudy shows that carrier and premarital screening programs for thalassaemia may be more effective and culturally acceptable in the reduction of pregnancies with thalassaemia major. The findings provide insights into culturally congruent educational interventions to reach out diverse socio-demographic and ethnic communities to increase knowledge and cultivate positive attitudes toward prevention of thalassaemia.

Keywordsthalassaemia public awareness attitudes nationwide survey multi-racial population Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1471-2458-11-193 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Li Ping Wong and Jin-Ai Mary Anne Tan contributed equally to this work.

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Author: Li Ping Wong - Elizabeth George - Jin-Ai Mary Anne Tan


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