Thanksgiving is family health history day | Surgeon General

This Thanksgiving, as families gather for the traditional turkey dinner, they can also learn more about their family health history, said Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, who notes that Thanksgiving 2012 is the nation’s ninth annual Family Health History Day.

“An important step in prevention and wellness  is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness and many others,” said Dr. Benjamin.  “Tracking illnesses from one generation to the next can help health care providers predict illnesses for which you may be at risk, and develop a personalized disease-prevention plan just for you.”

An Internet-based tool, My Family Health Portrait, lets anyone create a portrait of the family's health history.  It is available on the Surgeon General’s site at  The tool is secure, free and takes about 20 minutes to create. The information remains private, and the site does not retain any of the information.

When someone completes the questions, the site creates a personalized family health tree that can be saved to a personal computer.  The portrait can be shared with other family members who may not be home for Thanksgiving, and relatives can build on the Family Health Portrait by adding their health information to it.

Prepare for a Thanksgiving Day family conversation by making a list of relatives including parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins. Since some health conditions skip generations, make sure to talk to older relatives who may be aware of additional history.

Offering a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner a family health history can help them recommend specific tests or treatment plans to prevent or delay disease, which can personalize care.

“On this Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you and your family will take a few minutes to create a family health portrait,” Dr. Benjamin said.   “Learning your family’s health history can be an enjoyable way to invest in the future of your health and your family’s health.”

For additional information on creating your family health history, please visit

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