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FOR RELEASE: November 15 , 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Family Health History – An Important Genetic Test
National Family Health History Week is Nov. 18-24

As families gather for the holiday season, they should use this opportunity to learn more about the health history of the family. Family members share their genes, environments, lifestyles, and habits. Just as traits, such as eye color, often run in a family, conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer and heart disease can run in families.

“With today’s early detection and prevention programs, asking simple questions, and writing down the health problems that have occurred in the family over the years, can help save lives and prevent serious illnesses for other family members,” said Secretary of Health and Commissioner of Health Dr. Mike Crutcher.

Each year the U.S. Surgeon General sponsors an annual Family Health History Initiative encouraging individuals to learn more about their family health history during the Thanksgiving holiday. This year the official Family Health History Week is Nov. 18 – 24. During this week, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Genetics Advisory Council encourage Oklahomans to utilize family gatherings as an opportunity to find out more about their family health history and to share those findings with their doctor.

Key features of a family history that may increase a person’s risk for health problems include:

  • Health problems or conditions that occur at an earlier age than expected, perhaps 10 to 20 years before most people would experience the condition.
  • Health problems or conditions in more than one close relative.
  • Combinations of health problems or conditions that occur in the same individual and run in the family, such as breast and ovarian cancer or heart disease and diabetes.

“Knowing your family’s history may hold important clues about your risk for health problems and allow you to change your lifestyle to help prevent health problems and perform health screenings for early detection and treatment of genetic conditions,” said Dr. Barbara Neas, chair of the Oklahoma Genetics Advisory Council. “To learn about your family history, ask questions, talk at family gatherings and look at death certificates and family medical records. Collect information from your relatives about major medical conditions, causes of death, age of disease onset and age at death, and ethnic background. Then write down the information and share it with your doctor.”

Tools to assist Oklahomans with documenting their family history can be found at www.health.ok.gov/program/gp.

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