Tuesday, July 01, 2008

U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative

Perhaps three or four years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General launched a "Family History Initiative." I first came across it a few weeks ago. The Surgeon General's Website says this:

Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - and even rare diseases - like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia - can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

To help focus attention on the importance of family history, the U.S. Surgeon General in cooperation with other agencies with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a national public health campaign, called the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative, to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.

It goes on to say:

Americans know that family history is important to health. A recent survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history.
So, of course, to capitalize on the rising popularity of family history research and "[b]ecause family health history is such a powerful screening tool," the government came up with its own
family [health] history software, "to help make it fun and easy for anyone to create a sophisticated portrait of their family's health."

The software, which is also available in a web-based version, is called My Family Health Portrait. As genealogical software, it ain't great. It appears to allow you print two reports, the ones displayed here:

Above: Text-only Report
Below: Graphic Report
(Click on images to enlarge)

(Note: the family depicted above is entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental and unintentional.)

Is this as the government claims, a useful tool? Probably. And you could probably get the same info by customizing a report from your usual genealogical software. But for those not into genealogy, this tool may have two uses: first, it will help them trace family health issues and second, it may interest them further in genealogy.

The Surgeon General's Family History Initiative

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