Family Health History Day

Talk to your Family about Health History

In 2002, the Office of Public Health Genomics (OPHG) started the Family History Public Health Initiative to increase awareness of family history as an important risk factor for common chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and to promote its use in programs aimed at reducing the burden of these diseases in the U.S. population.

The initiative has four main activities:

  • Conducting research to define, measure, and assess family history in populations and individuals
  • Developing and evaluating tools for collecting family history
  • Evaluating whether family history-based strategies work
  • Promoting evidence-based applications of family history to health professionals and the public

Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family Health History Day. This year the Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., released a statement to “encourage everyone to spend time talking with their family members about their health.  National Family Health History Day is a great opportunity to draw attention to the importance of sharing family health history.”

To help, check out the Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait“. This secure and free web-based tool allows you to set up a unique family health tree. You can share it with anyone so get your family involved and have them add their health information. If someone in the family is already doing genealogy, there is probably some good information on your ancestor’s causes of death. You also have the option to share your tree with your physicians or simply print it out to give to them.

For more information, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a guide to help you organize your family history. Read the final panel statement from the 2009 NIH State-of-the-Science Conference: Family History and Improving Health. “It recognized that family history has an important role in the practice of medicine and may motivate positive lifestyle changes, enhance individual empowerment, and influence clinical interventions.” You can also read the Evidence Report and Technology Assessment: Family History and Improving Health, prepared for HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Have a safe and happy holiday from all of us at HITECH Answers.