Thanksgiving is National Family Health History Day: A message from Dr. Toby Cosgrove

In 2004, the Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day and urges people to talk about and discuss health problems that seem to run in their families. This year, Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, MD, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic is urging Americans to participate in the day.

"For many families, Thanksgiving Day is one of those rare occasions when multiple generations gather together in one place," Dr. Cosgrove wrote in a LinkedIn post. "That's why this day of feasting, football and family has also been deemed National Family Health History Day by the U.S. Surgeon General."

Family health history can be one of the key indicators of disease risk, Dr. Cosgrove wrote, so knowing of potential risks can help individuals make better informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

The Surgeon General offers a tool called My Family Health Portrait where people can enter their family health history, learn about risks for genetic conditions and keep a log of family health history.

Dr. Cosgrove wrote that simply documenting family health histories isn't enough — the information is only useful if it is shared with people's healthcare providers.

"Personalized healthcare holds great promise for the future of medicine. But the simple, low-tech approach of gathering your family's history is just as important as any genetic innovation that may becoming our way," Dr. Cosgrove wrote.

More articles on population health:

Infographic: The path to population health
Population health management: Your checklist for success
US obesity rates on the rise: 3 things to know

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