Know your family health history in November

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familyWhen: The last Thursday of November

What: When a person first goes to a new doctor, they are usually asked to disclose a detailed health profile. Do they smoke? Drink? Exercise? What about their family history? And so often, people may scratch their heads, unsure of their family medical history past their parents. On National Family Health History Day, remember to get a detailed family health history.

Background: In November 2004, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, launched a campaign to focus on the importance of a detailed family health history. The campaign was originally called the U.S. Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative. The day falls on Thanksgiving each year to remind families gathering for the holiday to get an accurate and detailed family health history.

Story Pitch: A number of groups and organizations can pitch around this event. Family doctors will want to note the importance of a family medical history, alerting patients of specific diseases and conditions that can be genetic. In addition, geneticists can stress the importance of genetic counseling and learning about certain genetic diseases that may run in a family. Local news stations may also pitch around the holiday while preparing their Thanksgiving coverage, reminding families to gather their medical histories over the holiday weekend.

Story Hook: Many common diseases can run in families, including heart disease and diabetes. Rare diseases – cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia – may also be family-related. Consider the following when you make your pitch:

  • What are some family-related diseases that people should look for when taking an accurate medical history?
  • How far back should a person go for family history? A generation? Two?
  • What are some other times of year when people can remember to get their medical history in order? Are there other big holidays where families gather?
  • What should people who have been adopted do to get a better picture of their medical histories?

Tips: A family doctor can provide tips on how to keep track of your family history. In addition, someone who keeps a detailed family history can give suggestions on how to keep that history.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(800) 232-4636

National Human Genome Research Institute
(301) 402-0911

Office of the Surgeon General
(240) 276-8853

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(877) 696-6775

–Researched, compiled & written by Kimberly Cooper
Event Dates  from CHASE’S Calendar of Events

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