Have you ever been told that you have your father’s nose or your mother’s brown eyes? Many of us look like our parents or one of our siblings, but did you ever wonder what else you inherited from your parents besides their physical traits?

Most of us know that cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure can run in families. However, most families have never tried to gather or write down their health history. There are many reasons that knowing family health history is important.

Top 10 reasons to know your family history

  1. Because it doesn’t cost a thing, and it could save your life.
  2. Because you owe your mother a phone call anyway.
  3. Because every family has a story, but not every family has YOUR story.
  4. Because sometimes with a little help from the past, you can change the future.
  5. Because the best present you can get for your children this year is a family tree (no batteries required!).
  6. Because if you don’t know, who will?
  7. Because personalized medicine is in. One-size-fits-all medicine is so last century.
  8. Because when you need to know, they may not be there to ask.
  9. Because it’s not just recipes that get passed down in families.
  10. Because what you don’t know CAN hurt you.

Because family health history is such a powerful screening tool, the Surgeon General has launched a national public health campaign, called the Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative, to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.

The Family Health Portrait, a new computerized tool, helps make it fun and easy for anyone to create a family health portrait. You can enter your family’s information, print it and save it so you have a place to add future information. This tool also will help your doctor offer more personalized medical recommendations based on specific risks related to your family history.

~ Heather Radtke, MS, CGC, genetic counselor, Genetics Clinic, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Learn more about Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin at chw.org.

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