Family Health History
Family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles, and environments that together may influence their health and their risk of chronic disease. Most people have a family health history of some chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes) and health conditions (e.g., high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia). People who have a close family member with a chronic disease may have a higher risk of developing that disease than those without such a family member.
Family health history is a written or graphic record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. A useful family health history shows three generations of your biological relatives, the age at diagnosis, and the age and cause of death of deceased family members. Family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing disease in individuals and their close relatives.
Some people may know a lot about their family health history or only a little. It is helpful to talk with family members about your health history, write this information down, and update it from time to time. This way family members will have organized and accurate information ready to share with their health care provider. Family health history information may help health care providers determine which tests and screenings are recommended to help family members know their health risk.
To help individuals collect and organize their family history information, CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics collaborated with the U.S. Surgeon General and other federal agencies to develop a Web-based tool called “My Family Health Portrait.”
Learn More About Family Health History
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Family Health History fact sheet
- Diseases, Genetics, and Family History fact sheets
- My Family Health Portrait (a tool for collecting family history)
- Family History: Everyone's Story (five public service announcements for health care providers)
- Family History – An Early Warning for Your Child (podcast)
- Family History Collection Tools
- Family Healthware™
- Collecting your child’s family health history
- Family history, children, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
- Family History is Important for Health ( English [PDF 94KB] | Spanish [PDF 65KB]) (Brochure Format [PDF 678KB])
- Does Diabetes Run in Your Family? (Brochure Format [ PDF 1.7MB])
- ¿Hay diabetes en tu familia? (Folleto de Diabetes [PDF 1.8MB])
Publications and Reports
- National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Statement
- Family Health History Still an Important Tool for Clinical and Public Health Practice, but Knowledge Gaps Remain, CDC
- Clinical Application of Genetic Risk Assessment Strategies for Coronary Artery Disease: Genotypes, Phenotypes, and Family History
Primary Care, 2004
- Research Priorities for Evaluating Family History in the Prevention of Common Chronic Diseases [PDF 107KB]
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2003
- Family History in Pediatric Primary Care and Public Health
Also see the Family Health History and Disease and Genetic Information sections in OPHG's resource guide.