Family Medical History Fumbled
November 9, 2004 -- "This morning ... U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona will launch a new initiative to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history. The reason is simple: knowing your family's medical history can save your life,"
This is an e-mail message we received yesterday together with a press release from Health and Human Services (see below).
A Family Medical History
A medical family history should include all first degree relatives (parents and siblings), second degree relatives (aunts and uncles) and third degree relatives (cousins and grandparents), at the least.
Besides depicting familial relationships, a pedigree also must contain vital medical information such as the birth date, date of death, cause of death, health problems, and results of key medical tests.
Fumbling the Family History
However, we are both medical geneticists and have taken many family histories in pedigree form. We find the diseases you are asked to check off for each family member for the government's "My Family Health Portrait" far too few in number.
For a female, there is a sixth condition -- ovarian cancer. If they could add that for a female, why couldn't they present a more effectively designed list of diseases to check off?
For anything other than these 5 or 6 specific conditions, there are two slots for an additional disease. If you have more than that in your health history, you are out of business.
After asking your "race/ethnic group," the program then takes no account of it. Why if someone is African-American, why is sickle cell disease, hypertension, or prostate cancer not a good choice? Or if you're Jewish, why not Tay-Sachs disease or Gaucher disease? And so on.
The Final Fumble
But then there is a notice that reads: "You can only use Create My Family
Tree once. After you build your family profile, Create My Family Tree disappears
from the menu."
Related MedicineNet Links
Below is the press release from the National
Institutes of Health: