Online version of 'My Family Health Portrait' available in English and Spanish

Web-based Family History Tool


U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative:

A revised and more convenient computer tool is available without cost, in English and Spanish, to help families gather their health information.

"I encourage all families to take time to collect important health history information that can benefit all family members," U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., said in announcing the new tool in February 2006. "Even with all the high-tech tests, medicines, and procedures available in today's modern health-care setting, family health history remains the cornerstone of our efforts to prevent disease and promote personal health. It's clear that knowing your family history can save your life."

Health care professionals have known for a long time that many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, can run in families. A detailed family history can predict the disorders for which a person may be at increased risk and can help to develop more personalized approaches to prevent illness or detect it early when it is most treatable.

Developed by the Office of the Surgeon General, the computer tool, called "My Family Health Portrait," is a revised version of one released last year that required downloading to a user's computer. The new version is Web-based, which allows it to be operated on computers with Internet access running any one of several standard browsers. The tool organizes a family's health history into a printout that people can take to their health care professional to help determine whether they are at higher risk for disease. All personal information entered into the program resides on the user's computer only. No information is available to the federal government or any other agency.

The tool guides users to compile information for their family members on six common diseases--heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer--as well as information about any other conditions that are of particular interest to the family. The tool focuses on these six diseases because a genetic link is known for each and because a preventive strategy can be developed to avoid illness.

"My Family Health Portrait" is part of a national public health campaign called the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative, which encourages all American families to learn more about their family health history. The surgeon general launched the campaign in cooperation with other organizations within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

In unveiling the My Family Health Portrait tool, Carmona also praised the National Council of La Raza's Institute for Hispanic Health (NCLR/IHH) for developing its own family history consumer outreach program for Spanish-speaking Americans, based on the framework made available by the Family History Initiative. The NCLR is the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

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