Modernizing family health history: achievable strategies to reduce implementation gaps

J Community Genet. 2021 Jul;12(3):493-496. doi: 10.1007/s12687-021-00531-6. Epub 2021 May 24.


Family health history (FHH) is a valuable yet underused healthcare tool for assessing health risks for both prevalent disorders like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, and for rare, monogenic disorders. Full implementation of FHH collection and analysis in healthcare could improve both primary and secondary disease prevention for individuals and, through cascade testing, make at risk family members eligible for pre-symptomatic testing and preventative interventions. In addition to risk assessment in the clinic, FHH is increasingly important for interpreting clinical genetic testing results and for research connecting health risks to genomic variation. Despite this value, diverse implementation gaps in clinical settings undermine its potential clinical value and limit the quality of connected health and genomic data. The NHGRI Family Health History Group, an open-membership, US-based group with international members, believes that integrating FHH in healthcare and research is more important than ever, and that achievable implementation advances, including education, are urgently needed to boost the pace of translational utility in genomic medicine. An inventory of implementation gaps and proposed achievable strategies to address them, representing a consensus developed in meetings from 2019-2020, is presented here. The proposed measures are diverse, interdisciplinary, and are guided by experience and ongoing implementation and research efforts.

Keywords: Family health history; Implementation; Informatics; Primary care; Strategies.