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U.S. Surgeon General declares Thanksgiving as “Family Health History Day”

Posted Nov 22 2011 12:01am

Washington D.C. -- United States Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin today declared Thanksgiving 2011 as the nation’s eighth annual “Family Health History Day,” when families can share information by using the My Family Health Portrait website to gather their family’s health history in one place.

“An important first step in preventing illness and disability is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, mental illness and many others,” said Dr. Benjamin.  “Discussing health information with other members of your family can often uncover conditions and explanations for health problems which you never knew about, simply because no one ever asked.”

My Family Health Portrait is available on the Office of the Surgeon General’s website at .  This tool is secure, free and takes about 20 minutes to create your unique family health portrait. Information can be shared with other family members who may not be home for Thanksgiving. They can build on your Family Health Portrait by adding their health information and can choose to share with you.

When you complete the questions, the website creates a personalized “family health tree” that can be saved to your home computer. From there, families may update the information at any time.  Your information remains private.  The federal website does not retain the information once the tool has been used to assemble it. 

Prepare for a Thanksgiving Day conversation by making a list of your relatives including your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins. Because some health conditions skip generations, be sure to talk to your older relatives who may know additional family history.

Offering your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner your family health history can enable them to recommend specific tests or treatment plans to prevent or delay disease. 

“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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