Talk About Health This Holiday Season

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

When families gather this holiday season they can create a legacy that could help them and future generations live longer, healthier lives. Gov. Matt Blunt has designated November as Missouri Family Health History Month, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is urging families to record their personal health information when they get together for the holidays.

“A family health history could be one of the most valuable things you pass down to your children and grandchildren,” said Jane Drummond, health department director, “Mapping your family’s health history to create a medical family tree can help families identify health risks they may face in the years ahead.”

The health department recommends documenting diseases and causes of death for at least three generations to gather medical information that could prove beneficial now and in the future. The information can assist health care providers in assessing a patient’s risk of disease and recommending appropriate preventive measures or treatment.


Family history is considered one of the most important risk factors for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and certain psychiatric disorders. Family members also share more than genetic characteristics. They often share environments, lifestyles and personal habits, which can be factors for disease.

“Documenting the illnesses that have affected your grandparents, parents and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders for which you may be at risk and can help motivate you to change any unhealthy behaviors that could contribute to health problems,” Drummond added.

Family health histories should be provided to all health care providers to be retained as a permanent part of a person’s medical file, Drummond added.

In addition to Missouri’s Family Health History Month, the U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving Day as the fifth annual National Family History Day.

A recent national survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family’s medical history is important to their health. However, that same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and organize their family’s health history. The state health department has developed a video about recording health histories.