Happy Thanksgiving 2018: Protect your family’s health by using My Family Health Portrait to collect and share your family health history

Posted on by Muin J Khoury, Director, Office of Public Health Genomics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

a multigenerational familly eating a thanksgiving meal and a picture of DNA is hanging on the wallHappy Thanksgiving Day! It is time to send our yearly message on the importance of family health history to your own health. Every year we emphasize a slightly different version of this message. In 2017, we highlighted the simple fact that even in the age of genomics and precision medicine, family health history remains as the ultimate low tech tool (and the first genetic test) allowing people to understand their predispositions to various diseases. In 2016, we highlighted the emergence of new tools that can help consumers and providers collect and analyze family history information. In 2015, we focused on the need to “think globally and act locally” when it comes to spreading the word about the value of family health history in health care and population health. In 2014, we challenged the prevailing notion that, as a non-modifiable risk factor, family history is not worthy of public health messaging. By knowing and acting on your family history, you can reduce your disease risk and actually change family health history for future generations.

So why do we persist year after year in promoting the value and use of family history around thanksgiving? Since 2004, The U.S. Surgeon General has designated Thanksgiving Day as National Family History Day, a day to help families learn and collect information about their family health history. Family history can identify people at high risk for many common diseases, such as heart disease, breast, colorectal, and other cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, glaucoma, depression and suicide, and more. In many cases, having at least one first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) for some diseases doubles the person’s risk for the same disease. The risk is even higher if there are several affected relatives in the family, and affected relatives develop the disease at an early age. Family history is also associated with a wide range of genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease, hereditary hemochromatosis, familial hypercholesterolemia, and more.

So what’s new in 2018? Starting September 6, 2018, My Family Health Portrait has a new home, the CDC Public Health Genomics Knowledge Base (PHGKB). CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics developed PHGKB as a suite of searchable databases, tools and resources to facilitate translation and implementation of genomics in clinical and public health programs. Our users have become accustomed to the ever increasing number of interconnected resources that are regularly curated, updated with friendly displays, and customized search strategies and databases. The tool is still the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait, and while the web location of the tool will change to CDC servers, its essence and core capabilities will remain the same.

This Thanksgiving Day, please go to the My Family Health Portrait’s new home and discover—or rediscover—how you can collect, update and act on your family health information. It could prove life-changing to your own health! If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please submit them below.

From our family to yours, we wish you all the best for Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season.

Posted on by Muin J Khoury, Director, Office of Public Health Genomics, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTags
Page last reviewed: April 9, 2024
Page last updated: April 9, 2024