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Family History


Your Family History - Your Future


Your family history holds key information about your past and clues to your future health. Many of your physical traits, such as eye color, hair color, and height are inherited. So, too, are risks for certain genetic conditions and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. You may have noticed that some of your relatives are healthier and live longer than other relatives. You may also have noticed that some relatives have the same health problems. By collecting your family's health history, you can learn what health problems you may be at increased risk for in the future and how to reduce your risks. For instance, people at increased risk for heart disease may be able to reduce their risk through not smoking, regular exercise and diet. Learning your family history can benefit both you and your relatives… and it can be fun too!



To help focus attention on the importance of family health history, acting U.S. Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H., in cooperation with other agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has launched a national public health campaign called the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.



ASHG Resources


Other Useful Resources The Talk Health History Campaign Web site provides a comprehensive source of family health history information – along with helpful tools and resources – for patients, families and healthcare providers.


ASHG, Genetic Alliance and NSGC: “Family History Fact Sheet” – A step-by-step guide that describes how to collect your relatives’ medical information and draw a family history tree that will help predict your genetic disease risk.


ASHG Video Series:


Family Health History: Why and How


Interpreting Family Health History I: Red Flags


Interpreting Family Health History II: Genetic Counseling


Talk Health History Campaign Video


ASHG You Tube Channel



U.S. Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative: The Web site provides tips on how to gather family health information and a free online Family Health Portrait tool for creating a personalized family health history report. You could print out the information and share it with your family members and health care providers.  The Department of Health and Human Services also developed some disease-specific health risk information fact sheets for: heart disease, diabetes, colorectal cancer, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and Tay-Sachs disease.


Genetic Alliance: Family Health History – Genetic Alliance produced two booklets that contain helpful information about collecting, compiling, and interpreting family health history. You could customize their booklets for your family, organization, or community. The booklets are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.


CDC Family History Resources: The Web site provides general information about family health history (FAQs, fact sheets and brochures) and links to tools to collect family history.


University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center One of the modules,”Using Family History to Improve your Health”, includes excellent resources and information to help people understand how genetics affects their lives and its implications for society. The Utah Department of Health also offers a family health history toolkit on their Web site.


The Center for Medical Genetics: "MyGenerations" - MyGenerations is a web-based tool for collecting personal and family health history to determine your risk of developing cancer. You can print and share the report with your health care providers to develop an individualized plan for early cancer detection and prevention.


CDC Featured Podcast: "Family History - An Early Warning for Your Child"
The CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects & Developmental Disabilities - Nov 28, 2007


Dr. Paula Yoon and Dr. Tracy Trotter from the CDC address the use of family health history information in pediatric settings. This podcast speaks to both practitioners and parents in describing how “collecting family history information could save your child's life.”


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