Located inside the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the Office of Women’s Health (OWH). This agency recommends that everyone check out the Surgeon General’s Office (SGO) to examine the Family Health Portrait. This program was established in 2016 and is successful in developing individual, web-based programs for generational families who want to track and predict their health risk and assist them in making screening and treatment decisions about their health and the future conditions of their yet-unborn family members.
This type of tracking can be especially useful since medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and certain auto-immune illnesses often run in families. This type of medical tracking can help to focus attention on a family’s health in much the same manner that DNA testing and a genetic genealogy map can reveal a person’s genealogical journey.
However, as we all know, there are always risks in any venture such as this. Many people don’t want to place any personal information into a web-based program. There are certainly security concerns to this argument. I’m one of those advocates and am cautious about sharing my personal information in any format in which I am not fully comfortable.
The basic idea though is sound. However, you may determine that verbally sharing with family members is more effective and personal. It may be prudent to consider this option before it is needed. By that, I mean before a family member is diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening disease and you have to “backtrack” to determine if anyone else in the family has ever been diagnosed with a similar condition. Knowing your family’s risk factors for any illness can be both confusing and comforting.
You may not want to know your chances of developing cancer or heart disease. You may choose to live a healthy lifestyle and accept whatever comes into your life. However, if one of your children is diagnosed with systemic lupus or juvenile arthritis, it may be helpful to know if any of your older relatives were diagnosed with the same medical condition at an early age. Your medical provider will probably ask you that exact question when your child receives their diagnosis. Tracking your family’s medical tree will give you the answer at a glance.
I’m sure that many families have had similar discussions about health history tracking. The conversation goes something like this: “Didn’t Aunt Sally have diabetes? Or was it Uncle Joe? I know that mom said one of her siblings had something wrong with the sugar in their blood. Somebody was always doing the “finger sticking” thing.” Anxious family members sit in the hospital waiting room shaking their heads and waiting for word from the ER doctor about grandpa after he was admitted for “high blood sugar.” If someone in the family had taken the initiative to complete a health history tracking then everyone would know the answer about Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe.
Now, I will say this: there is always someone in the family who ain’t sharin’ nothin’ about themselves to nobody for any reason – good or bad. They don’t care if it’s for their long-lost aunt or their favorite cousin – they ain’t sharin’. Well, that’s easy to fix. The health history diagram slot for that particular family member can be completed and the space can be left black and possibly be filled in later. Maybe the “non-sharer” will offer information once he or she takes a look at the completed chart.
The great thing about making a health history diagram is that everyone in the family has an opportunity to talk to each other. Normally, this might not happen as often as you would like but this gives everyone a “generic” opportunity. The tracking of the past and current health status of family members is good for not only themselves but the next generation as well. This is something that you can do now to help ensure that healthy generations are in your future.