FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Connecticut Department of Public Health
November 23, 2009 Contact: William Gerrish
Hartford – It’s Thanksgiving Day, and you and your family are gathered around the dinner table enjoying conversation and a delicious home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. As you reminisce with relatives about fond times and create new ones for future memories, you might also be privy to valuable information that could help you lead a healthier life.
Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - and rare diseases - like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia - can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.
The Department of Public Health encourages individuals and families in the State of Connecticut to set aside a few minutes of their time on November 26th – Thanksgiving Day – to discuss their family health history. In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General designated Thanksgiving Day as national Family History Day, dedicated to families increasing their knowledge and awareness of their own health history.
“Knowing your family health history is an important way to understand your risk factors and the preventive steps you can take to keep you and your family healthy,” stated DPH Commissioner J. Robert Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.
This Thanksgiving holiday, why not take the time to educate yourselves and your families on possible health risk factors, and on ways to prevent health and medical issues, such as diseases, for Connecticut families not only this holiday season, but also throughout an entire lifetime. It is the goal of the Family Health Initiative to provide an accessible method for individuals to easily obtain an accurate family health history, and, equally as important, to use that information in health promotion and disease prevention.
Such information may be vital, as many times the reason people get sick is often because of their family genetics. It is estimated that in a few more years, incredibly sophisticated genetic testing, along with other related advances, will change how health care is practiced in the United States. In fact, even now genetic information is already being used to improve health.
While not every disease one may obtain is necessarily because of family genetics, but actually a result of multiple genes and environmental factors, this should not hinder anyone from examining their family health history. Obtaining the information is available now, and at no cost. You can obtain a set of personalized information that captures the factors that may lead to unnecessary illnesses, and can serve as the foundation for individualized disease prevention: the family history. However, many are ignorant or unaware of their relatives’ medical histories.
The Family History Initiative continues to encourage family discussion of health history, and even provides a free, easy-to-use web based family history tool that people can download and complete. The tool, titled “My Family Health Portrait,” can be found via a link on the DPH website, at: www.ct.gov/dph and click on “Family History” under Featured links. It is also now available online in Spanish, and in print by request.
Together with the U.S. Surgeon General, the Connecticut Department of Public Health urges all Connecticut families to increase their awareness of the importance of family health history and to join together this Thanksgiving for health.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state. To contact the department, please visit its website at www.ct.gov/dph or call (860) 509-7270.