Thanksgiving Is Family Health History Day

Knowing your risks today can lead to a healthier tomorrow
SPRINGFIELD – As many families gather for Thanksgiving, the conversation often drifts toward talking about traits and characteristics that run in their family.  Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. In recognition, IDPH encourages families to talk about health conditions that run in their own families.
“Tracing your family members’ illnesses can help doctors predict the conditions for which you may be at risk and take steps to keep you healthy,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “In public health, we know that what we can predict, we can ultimately prevent.”
Health care professionals have long recognized that common diseases—such as diabetes or cancer—as well as rare diseases—such as cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy—can run in families. Family health history is a powerful screening tool, yet only approximately one-third of Americans have tried to gather and write down their family health history.
The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait helps users organize family health history and then print it out to share with health care providers and family members.
Topics you can ask your closest family members (those related by blood) about include:

  • Birth defects and childhood health problems
  • Any common adult diseases (heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, arthritis)
  • Age at death
  • Cause of death
  • Family ancestry
  • Pregnancy complications or difficulties
  • Mental health conditions

For more information visit the Surgeon General’s website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.