Clinical Center News
October 2016

This Thanksgiving, Celebrate Family Health History Day

A cartoon illustration of Thanksgiving turkeys - when the image is selected it will open a larger image that displays text that says This Thanksgiving - it's a good time to start collecting your family's health history using questions about Heart Disease, Allergies, Sickle Cell Anemia, High Cholesterol, Huntington's, Parkinson's, Diabetes, Cancer, Depression, Cystic Fibrosis and more, and to try the Surgeon General's free online tool at familyhistory.hhs.govThis Thanksgiving, cook up your unique recipe for wellness and disease prevention and create a family health portrait using the Family Health History tool created by the U.S. Surgeon General with help from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Why is it important to discuss your family's health history? Diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease often inherited, meaning that they run in families. Tracing illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents and other blood relatives can help your healthcare practitioner predict your risk for specific diseases and make vital screening and treatment decisions before any disease is evident.

Precision Medicine is an emerging approach for health promotion and disease prevention that takes into consideration the genes, environment and lifestyle of each person. Many efforts are underway to help make precision medicine the norm in every day clinical practice. However, there will always be a place for family health history as a no-cost component of your personalized healthcare.

With the Surgeon General's online tool, My Family Health Portrait, people can record their family health history before going to medical appointments. In addition, the tool allows users to save their family history information to their own computer and share health history information with other family members. The tool is available in English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

Before you start using this tool, ask family members for details about their health histories as well as the health histories of older relatives. Ideally, a family health history should contain health information about at least three generations, listing the diseases and conditions that have affected family members, the age a disease was diagnosed and, in the case of deceased family members, the cause of death. The most important relatives to include are parents, siblings and children. View tips on starting the conversations.

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