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Thanksgiving Traditions: Beyond Turkey and Football

photo of large family

This coming week, many families across the county will gather to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. While family traditions often center around traditional turkey dinners and watching football games, consider starting a new tradition to collect and document your family’s health history. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day, encouraging Americans to share a meal and their family health history. This information can help your doctor decide which tests and screenings are recommended to help you know your health risks. Because family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles, and environments, they may share a common risk for developing certain health problems. Family history can be especially valuable in helping a doctor make diagnosis if a child shows signs of a particular disease or disorder.

The updated Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool (available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian) can help you and your family to collect and organize family health history information and allows you to share this information easily with your doctor. The most important relatives to discuss family health with are parents, brothers and sisters, and children. Then, if possible, talk to grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and step-brothers and step-sisters.

More information on collecting family health history is available from the CDC at: and

MedlinePlus and NIHSeniorHealth also have Topic Pages on Family Health History: and

The National Library of Medicine database Genetics Home Reference has lots of information on genetic conditions and the genes or chromosomes which are linked to these conditions.

Take some time during the upcoming holidays to get to know your Family Health History better–for the health of it!

2 Responses to “Thanksgiving Traditions: Beyond Turkey and Football”

  1. Ashley Says:

    This is such an excellent idea – I just sent out an e-mail to all of my siblings and this year we’re going to try and document our family health as much as possible.

    My mom is really excited as it gives her a chance to talk about her parents and grandparents which is a subject we often don’t talk about!

  2. Cheryl Rowan Says:

    Great! Thank you for the feedback and Happy Thanksgiving!