Today’s guest post is written by Ridgely Fisk Green, PhD, MMSc. Dr. Fisk Green is Carter Consulting contractor at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Fisk Green works on improving children’s health through better use of family health history information.
Today, when you end up sitting next to Aunt Irma who likes to talk about everyone’s health problems, don’t tune her out! Take the opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to enjoy delicious food and get together with family. You share more than just special occasions with your family—you share genes, behaviors, culture, and environment. Family health history accounts for all of these. Your mother’s genes may have contributed to her type 2 diabetes and you may share some of those genes, but the fact that she never exercises and eats fast food every day also influences her health, and you might share some of those habits, as well.
Family health history information can also be important for keeping your child healthy. Family health history can help your child’s doctor make a diagnosis if your child shows signs of a disorder. It can show whether your child has an increased risk for a disease. If so, the doctor might suggest screening tests. Many genetic disorders first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.
Family health history is also very important if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a baby. Remember to collect family health history information from the baby’s father, too. Family health history can tell if you have a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your family health history or the father’s family health history.
Tips for Collecting Family Health History for Your Child
•Record the names of your child’s close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. For genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, include more distant relatives. Include conditions each relative has or had and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
•Use the US Surgeon General’s online tool for collecting family health histories, called “My Family Health Portrait.”
•Discuss family health history concerns with your child’s doctor. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, share family health history information with your doctor.
•Update your child’s family health history regularly and share new information with your child’s doctor.
•The best way to learn about your family health history is to ask questions. Talk at family gatherings and record your family’s health information—it could make a difference in your child’s life.
Click on this link to learn about family health history from the CDC.