|Medical genetics offers tool for gathering family health history|
A new tool to help families record their health history is now available through the Division of Medical Genetics, School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Family history is considered one of the most important elements in assessing risk factors for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and certain psychiatric disorders.
"Families share more than genetic characteristics," said John Martsolf, professor of pediatrics and director of the Division of Medical Genetics at the UND medical school. "They also share environments, lifestyles and personal habits, all of which can be factors for disease. Knowing the risk of certain diseases can motivate individuals to change any unhealthy behaviors."
Family health histories should be provided to all health care providers to be retained as a permanent part of a patient's medical file, Martsolf said. "This information can help health care providers do a better job of assessing a patient's risk of disease and prescribing appropriate preventive measures or courses of treatment."
Gov. John Hoeven has declared November as Family History Month, and is encouraging North Dakotans to learn more about the diseases and causes of death affecting at least three generations of family members.
The family history form is a web-enabled program that helps users organize family health history information which can be printed out for the family's doctors. It also helps users save that information as a computer file and share it with other family members.
For more information or to obtain a paper version of the family history form, contact the Division of Medical Genetics at 777-4277, or go to a local library and request assistance in accessing this form at the web site: https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/ .
Family gatherings, such as holidays, offer a great opportunity to learn about your family's health history, Martsolf noted.
U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona has declared Thanksgiving Day as the annual National Family History Day. He encourages Americans to use their family gatherings as a time to collect important family health history information that can benefit all family members.
A survey, conducted in August by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing a family history is important to their health. The survey also showed that only one-third of Americans has ever tried to gather and organize their families' health history.
-- Shelley Pohlman, Assistant to the Director, Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org, 701-777-4305