In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving Family Health History Day. Family history is important for everyone: it is one of the strongest factors influencing risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Understanding the risks can enable you to take specific steps to reduce your chances of developing these conditions.
For families with rare conditions, the importance of family history cannot be overstated. For example, sometimes families mistakenly believe that their child is the only one in the family affected by hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED). But when discussing family history, they may learn of another affected family member in a distant branch of the family. Now that a clinical trial is in place for a potential treatment, it is more important than ever for families to talk. We don’t want a distant cousin to miss out on the clinical trial because her son wasn’t diagnosed until he was too old to participate!
Here are two family history resources that you might find helpful:
- Genetic Alliance has a Does It Run In Your Family Toolkit that explains the importance of family health history, how to collect it, and how to organize it.
- The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait Tool – Because family health history is such a powerful screening tool, the Surgeon General has created a new computerized tool to help make it fun and easy for anyone to create a portrait of his or her family’s health.
National Family Health History Day is a great opportunity to draw attention to the importance of sharing family health history. We encourage you to talk to your family and share resources such as the NFED!