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A "Must Do" for This Holiday Season

    • It is an essential component of preventive healthcare that can help identify disease risk before symptoms start.
    • It gives healthcare providers the information to provide effective treatment to newborns.
    • It saves lives.

    What is “it”? On a newborn screening blog, the obvious answer would be…newborn screening. And you’d be right if that’s your guess. But there’s another “it” that fits the bill: family health history

    How do you collect your family health history? The easiest way is to talk to your family, and the upcoming holidays are the perfect opportunity to do so. In fact, Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day. Every year since 2004, the Surgeon General has urged Americans to use this day to talk with our relatives about health.

    Many genetic conditions screened for during newborn screening are treatable, especially when caught early. By giving families results soon after their baby is born, newborn screening gives babies the best chance at a happy, healthy life. Similarly, family health history gives clues as to what lies in your baby’s future. His green eyes and curly hair are not the only things he inherited from you and past generations; family health history includes the eating habits, lifestyle, culture, and environment your family shares. Being aware of our personal disease risk is the first step to disease prevention and appropriate treatment and management.

    There are many tools online and in print to help you organize your family’s health history. The customizable Does It Run in the Family? toolkit explains why family health history is important and how to collect it. It also gives details about conditions that run in families and hints for health. Once you collect the information, enter it into My Family Health Portrait, a tool from the Surgeon General, to create your personalized family tree.

    Make talking about family health history a new Thanksgiving tradition this year. If there are relatives you won’t see over turkey and stuffing, send them a family health history e-card from the CDC to start the conversation. And make sure to write everything down! As good as your memory might be, it’s impossible to remember the date of birth, age of onset of health conditions, age at death for the deceased, occupation, and habits such as smoking – all important details for the family health history – for every relative on your family tree. This record will be an invaluable tool for your healthcare provider as well as your child’s pediatrician.

    So, this holiday season, give the gift of good health to your loved ones – start it with family health history!

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