NHGRI Announces Two New Outreach Programs
As part of the effort to educate all Americans about the importance of knowing their family health histories, the National Human Genome Research Institute along with the acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu announced two new outreach projects involving Alaska Native and urban Appalachian communities as part of the Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative.
Akinso: As part of the effort to educate all Americans about the importance of knowing their family health histories, the National Human Genome Research Institute along with the acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu announced two new outreach projects involving Alaska Native and urban Appalachian communities as part of the Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative. The projects, each of which will receive $100,000, will develop community-based models to increase awareness among the public and health care professionals about the value of family history information in promoting health and preventing disease according to Sarah Harding, the NHGRI's Community Outreach Analyst.
Harding: Both of these projects are part of a series of family history demonstration projects. So these essentially are part of the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative which began in 2004. Really what the education branch wanted to do was to encourage groups to engage their communities around family health history. So both of these demonstration projects are aimed at developing model programs of community engagement around family health history.
Akinso: The new projects will expand upon what is being learned in NHGRI's Family History demonstration project at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. That effort, launched in November 2005 has been encouraging and evaluating the voluntary use of the Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" which is a web-based tool that organizes family health information into a printout that people can take to health care professionals to help determine whether they are at higher risk for disease. Harding said the NHGRI is excited about the potential of these projects to expand the reach and impact of the Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative.
Harding: These projects, we really are hoping these establish models. Things that we can report on that we can write about that can be successful engagements of a specific community, but then can be used by other groups. That's really the goal in these projects is that it will give methods and materials and lessons to other groups that want to do things like this. Family history information is considered to be a very valuable and powerful tool in genomics and in medicine. Knowing your family history can reveal really important information about risk, both through genetics, through what you've inherited through your family, but also in your environment — what you eat, how much exercise you get. And so knowing your family history can really be the bases for figuring out what to do if you are at risk. So whether it's making changes in your diet or your daily activity or whatever that may be. But family history can help predict risk of diseases like breast cancer or osteoporosis, or whatever it may be. It has been to be a very powerful tool but just not one that people utilize as much as they could. Part of the hope with the U.S. Surgeon General's Initiative and then these demonstration projects is that we can encourage individuals to collect their own family history information. bring it in to their doctor, have a conversation about it, and that individuals are really starting to have this conversation with their own families to figure out what they might be at risk for.
Akinso: In addition to the web-based tool, printable, PDF versions and other resources related to the U.S. Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative are available at www.hhs.gov/familyhistory. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Sarah Harding
Topic: Family Health History