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New family health history projects focus on Alaska Native, Appalachian communities

WASHINGTON, Wed., Nov. 15, 2006 As part of the effort to educate all Americans about the importance of knowing their family health histories, Acting Surgeon General Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., today announced two new outreach projects involving Alaska Native and urban Appalachian communities.

"This Thanksgiving, we will celebrate the third annual National Family History Day. As families across the nation come together to relax and give thanks, it's an ideal time for each of us to start learning more about our family health history," Dr. Moritsugu said. "This is not just knowledge for knowledge's sake. Knowing your family health history can save your life, as well as the lives of those you love."

Many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, can run in families. Health care professionals can use your family health history to help predict the disorders for which you may be at risk. Such information can help health care professionals develop more individualized strategies for keeping you and your family healthy.

"Gathering your family health history really is the first step towards personalized medicine," said Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health. "We are working on technology that will enable doctors to quickly read your genome and devise personalized health strategies based on your unique genetic blueprint. But we aren't quite there yet. So, in the meantime, the best approach is to give your doctor as much information as possible about your family's health history."

To make it easier to compile a family health history, the Office of the Surgeon General has created a free, Web-based tool that organizes family health information into a printout that people can take to health care professionals to help determine whether they are at higher risk for disease. The recently redesigned tool, "My Family Hea
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
15-Nov-2006


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