Family reunions provide an historical “anchor”, a sense of tradition especially when several generations attend. The gatherings are fun and give relatives plenty of time to talk about old times, honor ancestors and sample family foods. So what better time to talk about family health?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can help get you started with a free, computerized tool designed to help families gather their health information.
Called “My Family Health Portrait” the tool organizes Family information into a printout that people can take to their physician to help determine disease risk and develop personalized health strategies.
The tool offers an informal way to collect valuable data that does not intrude on family members or dampen the fun of being together.
More African-Americans need to realize the important connection between their family and their health, and the way physicians use this information to help identify potential health problems, develop treatment to prevent them and improve patient care.
Get started by mailing a personal note and questionnaire to family members several months in advance of the reunion. Ask family members to list conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, mental disorders or kidney failure.
During the reunion, set aside a breakfast or lunch to talk about the benefits of knowing family history. Some family members may resist so make it clear that a good data bank can save a life.
Healthcare professionals have known for a very long time that many diseases – such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia can run in families.
Talk one-on-one with family members for example who smoke or abuse alcohol or drugs and are at risk for lung cancer or renal failure. Present the information in a way that’s concise, respectful and interesting for your family.
“My Family Health Portrait” and additional information are available at www.hhs.gov/familyhistory or call 888-Ask-HRSA (888-275- 4772) English and Spanish versions are available.
Sharing this information can go a long way toward helping ensure that your loved ones enjoy many more reunions to come.
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