Surgeon General Declares Thanksgiving as “Family Health History Day”

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Press release from the US Department of Health Human Services:

Surgeon General Declares Thanksgiving as “Family Health History Day”

Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, today declared Thanksgiving Day 2009 to be the nation’s sixth annual “Family Health History Day,” when families can make plans for gathering their health history, with the aid of the My Family Health Portrait Web site.

“An important first step in preventing illness is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at risk for inheriting diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, mental illness, and many others,” said Dr. Benjamin. “Discussing family health information with each other can often uncover things you never knew, simply because no one ever asked.”

Your family health history can help direct your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner to specific tests or treatment plans you may need to take to prevent or delay disease. For example, you can be tested for a heart condition or cancer because it’s in your family history.

You can find the Office of the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait Web site at Once you have entered family health information, the on-line portal assembles the information into a medical “family tree” format that is useful for health care clinicians. This tool is free for anyone to use.

Filling out the “My Family Health Portrait” usually takes about 20 minutes. You can share the Web portal with your family members to help fill in missing information. The portal also allows relatives to create their own family health history by adding to information already entered by another family member.

After filling in the information, you can save the information to your computer and — if you want to — share it with your doctor. The Surgeon General’s Web site does not retain the information once the tool has been used to assemble it.

“On this Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you and your family will take a few minutes to create a family health portrait,” Dr. Benjamin said. “Learning your family’s health history is a valuable investment to make in your health and your family’s health.”


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