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Family Medical History

Gathering a complete and accurate family medical history is extremely important as genetic medicine explains more diseases. In fact, the Surgeon General has named Thanksgiving as Family History Day. Since several family members gather together on Thanksgiving Day, it's a great opportunity to talk to family members and learn more about their health history.  Several tools have been developed to aid both the physician/health care provider and the patient in documenting family history.  The family history tools below have been developed by the AMA and/or other trusted groups.  

Family History for Prenatal Providers To address family history collection, interpretation, and application in busy primary care practices, NCHPEG collaborated with several other groups to develop and evaluate a novel family history tool that focuses on prenatal and neonatal health. The tool helps to improve health outcomes for the female patient, fetus, and family by providing clinical decision support and educational resources for risk assessment based on family history.

 The Prenatal Genetic Screening Questionnaire may be useful for a physician/health care provider to gather information from a couple either prior to pregnancy or during a pregnancy. This form may be printed out and filled in by the patient prior to a doctor's appointment. It may also be presented to the patient while the patient is in the waiting room, thus saving time on gathering history during a consultation.

The pediatric patient that presents in a genetics consult is often very complex, having a diagnosis of, for example "Rule-Out Syndrome," or "Rule-Out Inborn Error of Metabolism." The Pediatric Clinical Genetics Questionnaire has several components that can be useful in helping the health care professional in gathering the necessary history of child in order to help with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

The Adult Family History Form is more likely to be useful when a patient is being seen in clinic to rule out a condition that may have developed later in life, which may or may not have been inherited.

The Family Medical History in Disease Prevention pamphlet provides a physician/health care provider with useful information about the utility of a family history in identifying disease risk and developing a personalized prevention program. This booklet also contains a listing of Web-based directories for locating genetic resources (laboratories, clinics, medical geneticists, and genetic counselors) in your community.

Additional family history resources

Watch Family History: A Window on Your Health

Former National Human Genome Research Institute Director (currently National Institutes of Health Director) Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and Genomic Healthcare Branch Chief William Gregory Feero, M.D., Ph.D. sit down for a conversation about the importance of learning your family history and recording it accurately.  Gathering the health history of your parents, grandparents and blood relatives and bringing it to your healthcare provider can help you determine your health risks and plan lifestyle changes to keep your family well.  Watch Family History: A Window on Your Health.

New public service announcements encourage wider use of family history

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)—in cooperation with the U.S. Surgeon General—has published a series of five public service announcements to encourage primary care physicians to be sure to take a family history of disease into account when treating patients. The announcements feature real patients with family histories of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and a pregnant mother concerned with prenatal care and genetics.  The public service annoucements can be found by visiting the NHGRI's Family History Initiative.