A family history is a record of medical information about an individual and their biological family. Human genetic data is becoming more prevalent and easy to obtain. Increasingly, this data is being used to identify individuals who are at increased risk for developing genetic disorders that run in families.
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When you think about your family's genealogy, you often think about past generations and maybe even future generations. When you come to talk to a healthcare provider, instead of asking you for your genealogy, they're going to ask you for your family history. And what they mean by family history is to get information about people's health, both in relatives who are no longer living, living individuals who are closely and less closely related to you, so that they can help you predict risks to your own health and perhaps even to your future offspring.
Barbara Bowles Biesecker, Ph.D.
Associate Investigator, Social and Behavioral Research Branch; Head, Genetic Services Research Unit; Director, JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program
Ms. Biesecker's research and teaching activities focus on making genetic counseling as effective as possible, which is a growing challenge as new genetic technologies generate an avalanche of data and questions about the meaning of genetic tests. This data has highlighted the fact that behavioral researchers do not yet know enough about the best ways to help people decide how to use their own genetic information in making health and reproductive decisions. Since genetic counseling has a relatively sparse amount of research to guide its professionals, Ms. Biesecker and her colleagues are on the cutting edge of genetic counseling research.