Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases (heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) and even 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.
To help focus attention on the importance of family health history, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, 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.
In addition to the Office of the Surgeon General, other HHS agencies involved in this project include the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
<strong>National Family History Day</strong>
Surgeon General Carmona has declared Thanksgiving 2004 to be the first annual National Family History Day. Thanksgiving is the traditional start of the holiday season for most Americans.
Whenever families gather, the Surgeon General encourages them 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 future together.
<strong>My Family Health Portrait</strong>
Americans know that family history is important to health. A recent survey found that 96% of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history.
Because family health history is such a powerful screening tool, the Surgeon General has created a new program to help make it fun and easy for anyone to create a sophisticated portrait of their family's health.
This new program, called "
" can be downloaded for free. This program will help you organize your family tree and help you identify common diseases that may run in your family.
When you are finished, the program will create and print out a graphical representation of your family's generations and the health disorders that may have moved from one generation to the next. That is a powerful tool for predicting any illnesses for which you should be checked.
For information on other activities of the Office of the Surgeon General, please visit