Awareness of family health history as a risk factor for disease--United States, 2004

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004 Nov 12;53(44):1044-7.


Persons who have close relatives with certain diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis) are more likely to develop those diseases themselves. Family health history is an important risk factor that reflects inherited genetic susceptibility, shared environment, and common behaviors. Although clinicians are trained to collect family histories, substantial barriers exist to obtaining this information in primary care practice (e.g., lack of time or lack of reimbursement). To promote the use of family history as a screening tool for disease prevention and health promotion, several initiatives have called for new self-administered family history collection tools and educational programs to help clinicians interpret and apply family history information to patient care. To assess attitudes, knowledge, and practices of U.S. residents regarding their family health histories, CDC analyzed data from the 2004 HealthStyles Survey. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated that although 96.3% of survey respondents believe their family history is important for their own health, few have actively collected health information from their relatives to develop a family history. Targeted public health efforts are needed to 1) help persons collect family history information to share with their health-care providers and 2) educate and assist providers to interpret and apply this information effectively.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • United States