Make Family Health History Part of Your Wellness Program

Posted on Monday, May 06, 2019

Preventative medicine has become standard practice in workplace wellness programs. And one of the best tools employees can use to combat and potentially prevent illnesses is to know the medical histories of their families. Toward that end, the Surgeon General, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other governmental agencies, has begun a Family Health Initiative.

This program may help educate employees regarding the many diseases that are believed, or known to have,  genetic linkages including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and alcoholism. If these conditions run in a family, a person can target the health care and medical advice received from health care providers.

Most People Don't Know Their Family Medical Histories

In a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 96 percent of Americans know the importance of knowing the medical history of their families. Despite being aware of the potential significance, however, the study reported that only 33 percent have made a concerted effort to gather and record health histories from their relatives.

Your company can contribute to the initiative by making employees aware of a computerized program called "My Family Health Portrait." The program is currently accessible to anyone who is online and it does not need to be permanently downloaded or installed on employees' computers.

The Family Health Portrait asks employees for the diseases they and their relatives have contracted, such as diabetes and ovarian cancer. It asks users to record personal health behaviors such as exercise, diet and smoking and also asks for more general personal information such as the age, gender, weight and height of employees and their family members.

The program is accessible at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/ and offers employees the ability to:

Print out family health histories to bring to doctor's appointments. 
Save their family health histories in an online profile for future reference. 
Update medical records whenever changes occur. 
Share family health histories with their relatives.

When completed, employees can view the family health history in a chart format as well as in a 'family tree' 
-- a familiar symbol of genealogical information. These records may then help doctors diagnose potential conditions and, in many cases, come up with a preventative health care plan to avoid specific conditions in the future.

Users Can Store Personal Medical Information

The program also offers a tool for keeping track of tests ordered by physicians and medications prescribed. It provides a single place where employees can store the information received by various specialists and refer back to it in order to get a complete health picture at a glance.

Rather than having file folders of information, which patients may have difficulty locating for their next medical appointments, the Family Health Portrait allows the data to be stored in an easily accessible manner.

Consider the Family Health Initiative in Your Wellness Program 

Ultimately, the Family Health Portrait offers a way to help complete the puzzle of medical ancestry. In addition, it allows patients to store and organize their current medical histories. Perhaps most importantly, it may provide an opportunity to predict potential medical red flags and provide the information necessary to prevent and diagnose future illnesses. 

With the potential benefits, you might want to consider holding a Family Health Initiative workshop in your workplace. In a short period of time, employees could learn the program and begin to enter their personal information. It could not only help staff members stay healthy, it may boost company morale when employees see management demonstrating concern for their continued well-being.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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