"We can't change our genetic makeup, but we can take steps to prevent disease, lower our risk, or identify health problems at an early stage when treatments are most effective," said Joanne Armstrong, MD, a senior medical director at Aetna who leads Aetna's women's health program. "As families spread out, we often lose important clues to our own health, clues that can be found in prior generations. Doctors benefit from knowing about chronic conditions that run in families, like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, even depression, in addition to diseases with a genetic link such as certain cancers. Armed with your history, you can take charge of your future."
According to Armstrong, the most informative way to assess family history is to review the first, second and third tiers of your family. The first tier involves looking at your parents, siblings and children. The second tier includes aunts, uncles and grandparents. The third tier is cousins, great grandparents, great aunts and great uncles.
The U.S. Surgeon General's Family History initiative provides a Family Health Portrait tool on its website. Aetna recommends that its employees and health plan members enter family health history into their Aetna CareEngine®-powered Personal Health Record (PHR), and then share it with their physicians. Each member's PHR is pre-populated with a variety of health information and individual claims data gathered from across the health care spectrum - such as physician offices, labs, diagnostic treatments and pharmacies. That information is combined with patient-entered information - such as family health history, allergies, and over-the-counter drug use, and housed in a secure, online location. The patented CareEngine® technology compares information in the PHR against well-respected medical literature to identify and alert members to potential patient safety issues and ways to improve care.
The following websites offer credible information on how to gather and organize family health history. There are also links to facts and myths about genetic testing, and tips for improving communication with physicians.
U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative (with My Family Health Portrait tool)
Get the Facts About Genetic Testing for Cancer
Genetic Alliance Booklets on Family Health History and Understanding Genetics
Tips on how to share information with your doctor and make the most of your visit
Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.2 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. www.aetna.com