Families encouraged to discuss their health history on Thanksgiving


The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) encourages families to take a few minutes this Thanksgiving Day to discuss their family health history, one of the largest risk factors for many chronic diseases.


“We know that family history is one of the strongest influences on our health, yet few have ever tried to gather and record their family’s health history,” stated DPH Genomics Coordinator Beverly Burke. “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. Almost everyone has available to them their family health history, which can be used as the basis for individualized disease prevention.”


Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases, such as 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.


Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. To help focus attention on the importance of family history, the Surgeon General, in cooperation with other agencies with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has launched a national public health campaign called the Surgeon General's Family History Initiative, to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.


Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about their family's health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.


The U.S. Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative provides a free, easy ­to ­use web based family history tool that people can download and complete called, "My Family Health Portrait." This tool can be found online in English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at www.hhs.gov/familyhistory.