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SDS & Science Snapshots (2023-11-25)

In this issue: The importance of knowing your family health history and how to have these delicate and powerful conversations

Welcome to our timely updates on all things SDS, Science, and Advocacy. We bring you a digest of recent scientific publications, conferences, and other newsworthy content - all relevant to SDS - with links to more details and learning opportunities. Are you interested in anything specific? Did we miss something? Let us know. Email or message us on Facebook! This is all for you!

Nurturing Health Through Generations: A Guide to Family Health History Month

November is Family Health History Month — a time to begin to unravel the narrative that shapes our well-being. In this Science Snapshot, we’ll explore the significance of Family Health History Month and discuss how to approach these delicate, yet powerful conversations surrounding family health while visiting with loved ones during this holiday season.

Understanding Family Health History:

Family health history refers to a record of diseases and health conditions that run in your family. It's like a biological roadmap that can help provide insight into potential health detours we may encounter. By uncovering patterns of illnesses among close relatives, individuals can gain valuable insights into their genetic predispositions.

Why Family Health History Matters:

  1. Predictive Power: Your family's health history can provide clues about your risk for certain conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or certain types of cancer. Understanding your family's health history allows you to grasp the genetic risk you inherit and can potentially pass on to future generations.

  2. Empowering Health Literacy: Understanding the familial and genetic underpinnings of health conditions fosters health literacy and empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their lifestyle choices, preventative screenings, and healthcare choices.

  3. Personalized Healthcare: Armed with knowledge about your family's health, you can work with healthcare providers such as your primary care physician and/or genetic counselor to create personalized healthcare plans. This proactive approach enables early detection and management of potential health risks.

You can use tools such as My Family Health Portrait (more details at the bottom of this post) to keep track of your family health information and share it with your health care providers.

Talking to Your Family:

Approaching the topic of family health history can be sensitive, but it's a conversation worth having. Here are some tips on how to broach the subject:

  1. Create a Safe Space: Choose a setting that fosters open communication, free from distractions and time constraints.

  2. Express Empathy: Acknowledge that discussing health issues can be emotional. Approach the conversation with empathy and understanding.

  3. Lead by Example: Share your own health history first. This can help others feel more comfortable opening up about their own experiences.

  4. Use Open-Ended Questions: Instead of asking yes-or-no questions, use open-ended ones to encourage more detailed responses. For example, ask, "Can you tell me about any health conditions that run in our family?"

  5. Highlight the Benefits: Emphasize the positive impact of understanding family health history on everyone's well-being. Explain how it can guide healthier lifestyle choices and preventive measures.

Family Health History Month serves as a reminder of the valuable information embedded in our family trees. Initiating conversations about health history within the family may initially feel daunting and uncomfortable, but the benefits can far outweigh any initial discomfort. The insights gained from family health conversations are invaluable, shaping a roadmap for a healthier future.

Join us during our next Community Conversation on Sunday, December 10th to continue the conversation about genetics and how genetic testing for SDS can help your family!


My Family Health Portrait, a tool from the Surgeon General, allow you to:

  • Enter your family health history.

  • Learn about your risk for conditions that can run in families.

  • Print your family health history to share with family or your healthcare provider.

  • Save your family health history so you can update it over time.


For more information about Family Health History, you can visit these websites:


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