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News Release

Monday, November 24, 2008

Contact: OPHS Office of Communications
(202) 205-0143

Acting Surgeon General Encourages Americans to Know Health History

When family members are together sharing memories this Thanksgiving, some of those memories could help the family be healthier in coming years. Those memories are the family health history.

Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H., has declared Thanksgiving 2008 the fifth annual National Family History Day. He encourages everyone to use the occasion to discuss, identify and make a record of health problems that seem to run in the family. The Office of the Surgeon General has an updated Web tool to help create that health history.

A carefully constructed family health history may provide insight into disease risks that can be inherited, lifestyles that may affect disease risk, environmental factors, and patient health concerns.

“Talking about and sharing your own family health history is something you can do right now in order to gain an understanding of your health and the health of family members,” says Galson. “It’s a starting point for taking fuller charge of your own health future.

“Tracing the illnesses your grandparents, parents, and additional blood relatives have suffered from can help your health care provider predict diseases and disorders from which you could be at risk,” Galson said.

Families can use the Web-based tool "My Family Health Portrait.”  This tool provides consumers with a free and easily-to-use way to assemble their family health information. 

Launched in 2004 in partnership with several other agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Surgeon General's Family History Initiative encourages all American families to learn more about their family health history.

Visit the Surgeon General’s Web site to learn the importance of knowing about your family’s health history  You can find the “My Family Health Portrait” tool at


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

Last revised: November 24, 2008