Do you find it as annoying as I do when you have to fill out one of those medical history forms when visiting a doctor? With me it’s not so much the form itself, but the fact that medical paperwork has mushroomed in recent years. There are insurance forms, emergency contact forms, disclaimer forms and how-do-you-like-the tropical-fish-in-the-atrium forms (oops…off topic…sorry).
Truth is, knowing our medical history and sharing it with those that care for us is one of the more important things we can do in taking care of ourselves. According to the Beloit Daily News, “a recent survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history.”
I come from healthy stock. Or so I have always thought. My maternal grandparents lived to be 83 and 97 and both of my parents are still living, well into their 80s. But things are a bit different on my paternal side, where neither of my grandparents reached 80. That grandfather and an aunt died of cancer and another aunt died of heart disease exacerbated by diabetes. Plus, many members of the past couple of generations on my mother’s side have developed Type II diabetes.
In my younger years, I never connected those dots, a fact undoubtedly reflected on those medical history forms I filled out at that time. Even though I still find filling out the forms to be annoying, I have a much greater appreciation of their importance and am more diligent about providing accurate information.
The U.S. Surgeon General has made it easier for you to organize and present relevant family medical information at this web site. The burden of collecting accurate data, however, falls on you. Make sure you seek out this information as you work on your own family history project. It could save your life someday.