Family Health History


Each year since 2004, the Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. Thanksgiving Day, and other times when families gather, is a great opportunity to talk about health problems and conditions that are present in their family. Learning about one's family health history and writing it down, is the first step in helping to ensure a longer, healthier future together.

Why is Family Health History Important?

Everyone talks about traits and characteristics that “run in” their family, such as eye and hair color. Along with these physical traits, which are passed down from parent to child, some common diseases can also be inherited. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis

Knowing which conditions your parents and grandparents developed provide you an opportunity to learn about the disease. More importantly, you can find out what you can do to prevent developing the same condition.

How Do I Get My Family’s Health History?

Ask questions about your close relatives’ health. Ask about:

  • Birth defects and childhood health problems
  • Any common adult diseases (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis)
  • Age at death
  • Cause of death

Who Should I Include?

The health of your closest relatives, related to you by blood, influences your health the most. Therefore, include your:

  • Parents
  • Children
  • Grandparents
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Aunts and uncles

How Can I Get this Information?

Family gatherings (reunions, Thanksgiving and other holidays) are ideal opportunities to collect family health histories. Let your family members know you will share this information with everyone, so that the whole family can benefit.

What Do I Do With this Information?

  • Share it with your primary care provider who will make health care recommendations
  • Share this information with your relatives
  • Keep it in a safe place for future reference

Family Health History Record Keeper - PDF


Please take a look at the websites below. These links offer educational opportunities for health care providers and the public in raising awareness of the importance and value of knowing one's family health history.

Pass on this information…get the word out.

535 West Jefferson Street • Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977 • Fax 217-782-3987 • TTY 800-547-0466
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