Joining FORCES is the FORCE newsletter with news, views and supportive information for individuals concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
by Kathy Steligo
Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other common health disorders often run in families. By recognizing the genetic factors that contribute to these diseases, family members can identify their own increased risk and take appropriate preventative actions.
Everyone benefits by gathering their family health history. Collection and interpretation of this information is the most practical personalized tool available. The complex data reflects the interaction of genetic, environmental, cultural, and behavioral factors shared by family members. Health care professionals can use this knowledge to design individualized care programs to prevent disease and promote overall health.
Recent polls indicate the vast majority of people believe family information is important to their health, although most have never attempted to gather such facts. Working with agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., launched the Family History Initiative, a public health awareness campaign to encourage Americans to collect family health data and share it with their physicians. This effort highlights Thanksgiving, a traditional time of family gatherings, as the perfect time to discuss and document family health histories. The first annual National Family History Day was Thanksgiving 2004.
My Family Health Portrait is an easy-to-use tool to help document generations of family members and their health disorders. The program prompts for information and then creates a family tree indicating health problems that may be passed from one generation to the next. The tool can be downloaded in English and Spanish at the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative website. A print copy may be ordered by calling 888-275-4772.