As part of the Iron Overload, Public Health and Genetics conference, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 1997, a working group was convened to consider strategies to increase early case detection of hemochromatosis.This group emphasized that the primary public health goal should be to diagnose hemochromatosis before symptoms appear. To reach this goal, education and action need to be targeted to physicians and other health care workers, laboratorians, administrators, payers, and the public.
Strategies to disseminate updated information and increase early case detection were prioritized according to expected effectiveness.Strategies targeting physicians are 1) to identify national and local physician-leaders and 2) to educate physicians about hemochromatosis in basic, graduate specialty, and continuing medical education. Strategies aimed at the health system are 1) to encourage laboratories to provide the transferrin saturation test as part of routine laboratory panels and 2) to work with policymakers and payers to allow reimbursement for case detection. Finally, public education is recommended to increase lay support for the early diagnosis of hemochromatosis. Attempts to educate the public should be aimed first at persons who receive diagnoses of hemochromatosis in order to ensure that they are properly treated and then at asymptomatic persons who could be screened as part of health appraisals. Although identifying physician-leaders and educating physicians are the highest priorities, physicians should not be targeted at the exclusion of payers and the public. Simultaneous efforts to reach all groups in appropriate ways should be initiated to provide the interest and infrastructure necessary to decrease morbidity and mortality from hemochromatosis.