Know Your Family Health Story

If you know your family health story, you can share it with your child's doctor.

Because of their very existence, children cause parents and grandparents to dream of the future.  But when visiting a child or grandchild’s doctor, caring adults need to remember the past.

When Claire Harris arrives at the new pediatrician’s office with her three-year-old son Paul and 18-month-old daughter Brea, she congratulates herself that she has brought Paul’s inoculation record book, a list of questions she wrote out the night before and the voluminous diaper bag full of necessities.

Claire is certainly on the right track: time with any healthcare provider is usually short and preparation is vital.   Claire is semi-prepared with Paul’s inoculation history.   The reason: in our mobile society where more and more children are members of blended families and those families are often separated by thousands of miles, it has become extremely important for parents and grandparents to share their “family health story” and inform the child’s pediatrician.  This is especially true if this is the first visit your child is having with this particular provider.   Even though more and healthcare facilities have access to a patient’s chart through Electron Medical Records (EMR), a parent’s report that includes familial history gets both the client and the provider off to an excellent caring start.

Karen Heffernan, PA, notes that history, the HX on a patient’s chart, helps the provider get a clear picture of the child’s health environment right from the beginning and can even serve to make quicker diagnosis in a crisis situation.

Major things providers (physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners) want to know about your child include:

  • If your child is adopted
  • If your child is not totally biologically yours and your husband or partner’s but was conceived with a donor egg or donor sperm or both
  • If any family member—sibling, cousin, uncle etc. has Autism
  • Familial disease history—especially if the child is exhibiting symptoms linked to these conditions: diabetes, cancer of all types, autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis and MS, high cholesterol or high triglycerides

Environmental factors in your child’s life can also profoundly affect his or her health.   If your child presents with frequent bronchial infections your provider will be asking you about second hand smoke exposure.   This might seem invasive, but if you or your spouse or anyone in the house smokes, that’s part of your child’s health story and is just as vital as Claire Harris relating the sudden cardiac arrest history in her husband’s family.

So how can you use the PAST to protect your child’s FUTURE?  Ask questions, get answers and write them down.  The link below provides an excellent guide to know how to write your’s and your family members’ health story.

The following diseases and conditions can run in families:

Alzheimer’s disease or dementia



Birth defects

Cancer (breast, colon, lung, prostate, ovarian, and other cancers)



Heart disease or sudden heart attack

High blood pressure and high cholesterol

Pregnancy losses, stillbirths, and miscarriages

Stroke or blood clots

Here are some tips to help you discover your health story:

  • Have a family meeting with your grandparents or parents.
  • Ask them about their own health history as well as that of their parents and grandparents
  • Write it all down
  • Note that the sex, ethnic background, weight, diet as well as smoking, drinking and exercise habits of each of your ancestors can affect their health story
  • Share your health story with your siblings, cousins and other relatives
  • If there is a serious disease that runs in your family, find out if you can be tested to see if you will develop the disease or are a carrier of it

Getting all this information isn’t easy and sometimes will reveal things that will challenge you.  Note that in families there are so many variables.  But knowing your health story is better than having you or your child develop a condition or disease that your grandmother might have died from.  Knowing the facts of how that illness affected her might help you know what choices to make should someone in your family develop the same condition.

Thank you to BrambleRose 36 Photostream

2 thoughts on “Know Your Family Health Story

  1. This is an excellent post, Beth.

    A couple of points:

    1. There are so many wonderful apps now available to keep track of one’s health and that of the family. Like planning your family’s emergency escape route from the house, this too should be updated.

    2. Unfortunately, we didn’t get as detailed a record of our parents’ and grandparents’ health records as we would have liked. Ask questions, while people are still alive to answer them. Ask lots of questions. Record it. Video it. App it. 🙂

    3. The history is important, but as you say, “there are so many variables”. Live your life as well as you can, but don’t dwell on all the possible risks and lose out on living your life because of fear of what might happen. Control what you can control.

  2. All of your comments provide excellent advice and I am going to tweet some of them. As always you and I are on the same wavelength, offering help to many who might not have thought of these things.

    I wish you great health and a great day, Beth

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