|Holidays present opportunity to gather family medical history|
A new tool to help families capture and record their health history is now available through the Division of Medical Genetics at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
The family history form is a web-enabled program that helps people 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.
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.
For more information or to obtain a paper version of the family history form, contact the Division of Medical Genetics, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, at 777-4277, go to a local library and request assistance in accessing this form at the Web site www.heartlandfamilyhistory.org or call Heartland Regional Coordinating Center at 1-888-881-8852.
“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 given 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.
Family gatherings, such as holidays, present a great opportunity to learn about your family’s health history, Martsolf said. A survey, conducted last year by the U.S. Centers of 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 have ever tried to gather and organize their families’ health history.
-- Shelley Pohlman, Assistant to Director, Office of Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org, 701-777-4305