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Create a Health Portrait of Your Family!

By Barb Garrison, M.S., CHMM, CET

Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - and even rare diseases - like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia - can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

The U.S. Surgeon General's Office has developed a FREE web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait that allows you to create a personalized family health history report. Information you provide creates a drawing of your family tree and a chart of your family health history. Both the chart and the drawing can be printed and shared with your family members or your healthcare professional. Used in consultation with your healthcare professional, your family health history can help you review your family's health history and develop disease prevention strategies that are right for you.

Since the program is Web-based, no additional software needs to be downloaded or installed. The health information you provide is stored only on your computer and not on a U.S. government server. You own the file and can choose what to do with it at any time.

With My Family Health Portrait, you can:

* Edit or update your health information at anytime.
* Save your health information to a disk and take it with you if you are using a public machine (e.g., at the library).
* Decide with whom you want to share your health information.
* Decide how to share your health information (e.g., mail it to someone).

If you do not know all the details about everyone in your family, the health information you do enter into the tool will still be sufficient and useful.

To get started, go to and click on "Create a Family History."

If you have any questions about health, safety or environmental issues, please contact me at or by phone, toll-free at 866-723-3987.

Go to
Click on "Create a Family History."

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