December 12, 2019
With the United States and many other countries in the midst of what is widely referred to as the “holiday season,” people across the globe are making arrangements to spend time with their family members. G2MC member and Genomic Medicine Flagship Project Working Group Co-Chair, Grant Wood, takes a moment to provide an update and reflect on how the flagship project on Family Health History ties into the holiday season and family traditions.
In the United States this year, Thursday November 28 was not only what is known as Thanksgiving Day, but also National Family History Day. The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by religious pilgrims after their first harvest in what was the ‘New World” to them, in October 1621, and peacefully shared with a helpful tribe of indigenous people.
Today, the tradition in the US is to gather with family members, traveling significant distances if needed, for a family reunion where the fall harvest meal is the main attraction. To illustrate the deeply felt sentiment about the family aspect of this day, a Thanksgiving poem by Lydia Maria Child was originally published in 1844. The first line opens with “Over the river, and through the woods, To Grandfather's house we go” - and continues with “When Grandmother sees us come, She will say, O, dear, the children are here, bring a pie for everyone."
With several generations together, and the re-telling of stories of generations passed away, what a perfect time to engage in a family discussion of health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US promotes a program that encourages families, along with eating the traditional turkey and pumpkin pie, to talk about their family health history. The CDC's Family Health History webpage provides excellent guidance and advice to families on how to understand and approach the subject, with online tools to capture the stories and family health history information.
Starting early in the next year, the G2MC Genomic Medicine Flagship Project Working Group will launch a Family Health History subgroup. We will build on the previous work of past work groups’ efforts and conferences on this subject. Learning about the needs in each individual country, we hope to promote the benefits of family health history for patient self-knowledge, family sharing, public screening, pre-screening for genetic testing in a clinical setting, and research.
The importance of families and gratitude are not restricted to one holiday or one country, but are basic foundations of all humanity – which is why I’m thankful to be working with the inspirational G2MC family.
Written by Grant Wood, Co-Chair, Genomic Medicine Flagship Project Working Group