Sharing your family health history can save your life

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Sharing your family health history can save your life

Logo for Surgeon General's My Family Health Portrait Thanksgiving is the time for family get-togethers. It's also a golden opportunity to ask grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and siblings about their health histories. Gathering this information can help you identify the diseases and conditions that run in your family, and help you make informed decisions about preventive health screening and improved health behaviors.

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving National Family History Day and November Family History Month. To help record and share your health history with family members, there's a free, online tool from the U.S. Surgeon General called, "My Family Health Portrait," available at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov. The tool organizes family health information into a printout you can share with health care professionals who can then help determine whether you are at higher risk for certain diseases.

It takes less than 20 minutes to enter each family member's health history information about common diseases. The tool also allows users to return and enter additional information as it becomes available, and does not require complete information about every family member. To ensure privacy, no user information is saved on any computer of the U.S. federal government.

If you prefer to use a paper version of the tool to gather and record your family's information, a printable PDF of the Surgeon General's tool is available in several languages at My Family Health Portrait Tool - Printable Versions [hhs.gov].

To learn more about the U.S. Surgeon General's online family history tool, see The U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative: My Family Health Portrait.

There's also a wealth of information at the NIH Senior Health website, at Creating a Family Health History [nihseniorhealth.gov].

A recent webinar produced by the Genetic Alliance and featuring NHGRI's Dr. Greg Feero of the Genomics Healthcare Branch, explores a variety of health history tools at Family Health History Collection Tools: Start Building Your Family Tree [geneticalliance.org].

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Last Updated: November 14, 2012