Given the substantial morbidity and mortality associated with type 2 diabetes, it is important that public health seek ways to delay or prevent the onset of this condition. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes are well established and include underlying genetic susceptibility. Despite this knowledge, as well as significant advances in understanding the human genome, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes continues to rise at an alarming rate. Because type 2 diabetes is a complex condition involving a combination of genetic and environmental factors, DNA testing for susceptibility genes is not yet warranted. However, because family history reflects genetic susceptibility in addition to other factors, it may be a useful public health tool for disease prevention. When evaluating family history as a public health tool, several important issues need to be considered, including the analytic and clinical validity and the clinical utility of using family history as a screening tool. These issues as well as a review of the epidemiologic evidence evaluating family history as a risk factor will be reviewed.Overall, a family history approach appears to be a promising new public health tool to fight the growing epidemic of diabetes in the United States. Adequate levels of funding to further evaluate this approach and to develop appropriate tools should be made available for research activities focused on this important area.