Family stories save lives: Know and share your family health history
November 1, 2018
As the holidays approach we have an opportunity to enjoy our traditions, remember family members who have passed, and recount the familiar stories that brings us together as a family. Those stories have the power to shape the ways we live our lives. They are important and are perhaps best told by our seniors.
Just as we may be curious about where our elders came from, what they looked like, or even what jobs they held, equally important is the gathering of our family’s health history.
Knowing what diseases grandparents or parents lived with or died from, can help future generations to prepare for healthier futures.
November is Family Health History Month and Thanksgiving Day, November 22, is Family Health History Day. The Alaska Cancer Partnership is encouraging families, and especially elders, to make time over the holidays to share their health histories with their families.
Knowing your health history can help identify what you can do to reduce your likelihood of being diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes. It can help you decide to be regularly screened for diseases such as colorectal, breast or prostate cancer. And sharing your personal and family history with your health care provider may provide information that leads to the possibility of genetic testing – the results of which could help your family for generations to come.
The Alaska Cancer Partnership has produced a pamphlet, the Alaska Family Health History Record Keeper, which can be used to gather your family’s health history. You can find a copy of it at http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Documents/Cancer/assets/FamilyHealthHistory.pdf . You can also find more information about family health histories on-line at http://www.dhss.gov/programs/prevention-and-wellness/family-health-history .
Remember, just as stories hold a family together, health histories also connect us with information that can help those we love live healthier lives. Gather your family health history. Make copies for your family members. Share it with your health care providers.
The Alaska Cancer Partnership is a statewide coalition formed in 2006 to promote education about cancer prevention, early detection and survivorship to all Alaskans.
Judith Muller is with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) Cancer Program.