(StatePoint) Do your relatives know the facts about your personal medical history? What about your family history and their risk for disease?
A recent survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe it’s important to know their family medical history, yet only a third actually gather specifics, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This has public health officials concerned, as a number of diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and depression, have been known to run in families.
Family medical histories can be collected at family reunions and holidays. Explain that you’re creating a record the whole family can use to receive better health care. Remember to speak less and listen more.
â€¢ Provide multiple choices. Some people may be more willing to share health information in face-to-face conversations, others by phone or e-mail. Let them choose.
â€¢ Speak less, listen more. Keep your questions short and neutral. Medical diseases are not moral failings, but feeling judged is likely to get your relatives to clam up. So listen without comment.
â€¢ Respect privacy. Just because this information is to be shared, thereâ€™s no need to make Uncle Jimâ€™s prostate problems the focus of discussion at the next family barbeque.
You can keep your family medical history current by using free Web services such as the governmentâ€™s Family Health Portrait Tool, available at http://familyhistory.hhs.gov. After information is collected about grandparents, parents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles and cousins, it organizes it into a diagram for health care professionals to better individualize diagnosis, treatment and prevention plans.
To find out more about how your family history can affect your risk for diseases such as prostate cancer, visit www.pcf.org.
Then take the opportunity to collect a family history the next time your family is together. It might just save a life.