Holiday meal topic idea: How about family health history?

Oregon Health Authority says you may get key info

SALEM, Ore. - For some people, preparing for the Thanksgiving meal means getting ready to debate politics, endure a relative's relationship advice or defend your pick for the best "Game of Thrones" episode.

The Oregon Health Authority suggests another dinner table discussion topic this holiday season: family health history.

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving "Family Health History Day" to help focus attention on the importance of family health history and the role genetics plays in overall health.

Common diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as rare diseases like hemophilia and cystic fibrosis, tend to run in families, and Thanksgiving is a good time to raise the subject when everyone -- including many people you don't see but once a year -- is in the room.

"Family health history is often called the first genetic test. It can help people, their families and clinicians see potential risks and take action to reduce those risks or catch a disease early," said Summer Cox, genetics coordinator in the OHA ScreenWise program.

OHA offers the following tips for discussing family health history:
--Start with your parents: Close relatives such as parents and siblings are the most telling when it comes to your health history. Start with them and branch out from there.
--Use free online tools and resources:
----My Family Health Portrait at
----Does It Run In the Family? at
----The Talk Health History Campaign at
--Talk to a doctor or genetic counselor: Make your family health history a topic of conversation at your next doctor's appointments. If you have concerns, asked to be referred to a genetic counselor.

OHA also offers genetic information and counseling through the ScreenWise program at The program supports a statewide network of providers in offering breast and cervical cancer, cardiovascular and genetic screening for uninsured and underinsured patients.

Information on patient eligibility for the ScreenWise program is available on the OHA website at

For further guidance and screening, contact 211 at

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