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Happy Thanksgiving 2019: Collect and Share Your Family Health History: It Could Save Your Life!

Posted on by Muin J Khoury, Director, Office of Genomics and Precision Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This Thanksgiving, share more than just the turkey. Share your family health history. image of a family sharing a Thanksgiving mealHappy Thanksgiving Day! It is time for our yearly message on the importance of family health history to your own health. Year after year we promote the value on family health history around Thanksgiving day and all year round. By knowing and acting on your family history, you can reduce your disease risk and actually change family health history for future generations.

Every year we emphasize a slightly different version of this message. In 2018, we announced that the My Family Health Portrait Surgeon General tool was moved to the CDC Public Health Genomics and Precision Health Knowledge Base (PHGKB). In 2017, we highlighted the simple fact that even in the age of genomics and precision medicine, family health history remains as the ultimate low tech tool (and the first genetic test) allowing people to understand their predispositions to various diseases. In 2016, we highlighted the emergence of new tools that can help consumers and providers collect and analyze family history information. In 2015, we focused on the need to “think globally and act locally” when it comes to spreading the word about the value of family health history in health care and population health. In 2014, we challenged the prevailing notion that, as a non-modifiable risk factor, family history is not worthy of public health messaging.

Since 2004, The U.S. Surgeon General has designated Thanksgiving Day as National Family History Day, a day to help families learn and collect information about their family health history. Family history can identify people at high risk for many common diseases, such as heart disease, breast, colorectal, and other cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, glaucoma, depression and suicide, and more. In many cases, having at least one first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) for some diseases doubles the person’s risk for the same disease. The risk is even higher if there are several affected relatives in the family, and affected relatives develop the disease at an early age. Family history is also associated with a wide range of genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease, hereditary hemochromatosis, familial hypercholesterolemia, and more.

This Thanksgiving Day, please go to the My Family Health Portrait and discover—or rediscover—how you can collect, update and act on your family health information. It could prove life-changing to your own health! If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please submit them below.

From our family to yours, we wish you all the best for Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season.

Posted on by Muin J Khoury, Director, Office of Genomics and Precision Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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