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Video IconCertified genetic counselor Jennifer Stroop being interviewed on NBC Connecticut about the importance of discussing your family health history. 

Feature Story

Health Center Today, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving – Don’t Just Talk Turkey

By Chris DeFrancesco

Here’s one more thing for your holiday to-do list: Talk about your family’s health history when you get together with the relatives.

"Holidays can be the only times during the year when extended families are in the same place together, so Thanksgiving is really an ideal time to talk about previous generations – who had health problems, which ailments did they have, and how old were they when they had them," says Jennifer Stroop, a certified genetic counselor at the Health Center. "Family health history can go a long way in providing clues about our risk for common conditions like diabetes or heart disease."

In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General declared National Family History Day would be recognized annually on Thanksgiving. Health Center physicians say sharing family health history information with your provider is an important part of preventive medicine, and recommend taking the time to learn it – and write it down.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a free web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait, which helps create a drawing of a family tree and a family health history chart. The chart and the drawing can be printed and shared with family members and health care professionals. It’s available at

Additionally, individuals can create a written record of medications, including dosage and frequency, as well as information on allergies, physicians and pharmacists. The UConn Health Center offers personal pocket medication cards for this purpose. They’re available for download at and by request by calling 800-535-6232 or 860-679-7692.