Genetics Health education program among Israeli Arab Students in Beit-Berl College Increasing the Awareness about health problems associated with consanguinity.


Dr. Rajach Sharkia


Genetic diseases, congenital malformation and infant mortality are relatively prevalent among the Israeli Arab population. The main risk factor is the high rates consanguineous marriages. This, consanguinity, leads to high rate of inherited genetic disorders and congenital malformation in the offspring. It is possible to reduce the frequency of mentioned diseases by implementation a genetics health educational program among adults, with an emphasis on the medical consequences and health complications of marriages within the family.  

The frequency of consanguineous marriages in the Israeli-Arab society is about 44% (half of which are first cousin marriages) and its incidence is highest in rural areas (Jaber et al. 1994). A detailed study on the frequency and patterns of consanguineous marriages in four Israeli Arab villages over two periods of times was conducted. It revealed that there has been a change in the pattern of consanguinity in the selected villages. This change was expressed as a decrease in consanguineous marriages in general and between first-cousin marriages in particular and an increase in different-origin marriages (Sharkia et al, 2008). 

The relationship between consanguineous marriages, inherited genetic diseases and congenital malformation has been studied for many decades. During the 1950s in Japan, a high frequency of infant mortality was associated with consanguinity (Schull 1958).  Jaber et al. (1992) found that consanguineous marriages were a major cause of congenital malformation among the Israeli Arab community. Various forms of congenital malformation of the central nervous system, speech and infertility were found at a higher frequency in those individuals whose parents are family-related, than those with unrelated parents (Zlotogora 1997). The primary reason for infant mortality among Arab-Muslims in Israel is genetic disorders, whereas among the Jewish population premature birth is the main cause (Neter et al., 2005). In light of these mentioned facts, it is evident that consanguineous marriages do constitute an appreciable risk factor for genetic diseases internationally as well as locally in the Israeli Arab society.