New Initiative from Genetic Alliance Aims to Increase Awareness of Family History

Genetic Alliance, a non-profit health advocacy organization, has started an initiative to empower the public with regard to family health history, called Does It Run In The Family. Because family health history provides individuals and their health care providers with important information about disease risk, doctors advise patients to collect information from their family members. However, few patients actually collect and maintain this information

From Does It Run In The Family:

In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a survey of over 4,000 people. Ninety-seven percent (97%) thought that it is important to know your family health history. But only 30% had ever collected health information from their family members!…Genetic Alliance and partners created the Does It Run In the Family tool to help people collect their family health history information and share it with relatives and healthcare providers. The goal of the booklets is for individuals, families, and communities to use their new knowledge about family health history to increase their communication about health and become healthier people.

By helping patients know which questions to ask family members — and by putting information online and eliminating the need to send paper records back and forth — Does It Run In The Family aims to make collecting a family history a relatively painless part of the health care process.

Source: Does It Run In The Family

NIH to Hold Conference on Family History

People who have family members with certain diseases are more likely to develop those diseases themselves. Indeed, many common disorders, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, have genetic, environmental, behavioral and lifestyle causes that are shared between family members and together contribute to an individual’s risk for developing disease.

A family health history is a written or graphic record of these factors and includes information on diseases and health conditions of biological relatives, the age at diagnosis, and the age and cause of death of deceased family members. Family health history information collected from patients has long been used by healthcare providers in the U.S. as a risk assessment tool, and has gained renewed attention with efforts in personalized medicine. Americans recognize the importance of family history to health. A recent survey found an overwhelming 96% of respondents believe their family history is important for their own health; nevertheless, only 30% have actively collected health information from their relatives to develop a family history [1].

Despite the widespread and longstanding use of family health history, important questions regarding the effectiveness of family history information for disease prediction and improvement of health outcomes remain.