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IBX Insights

How to Create Your Medical Family Tree

By November 25, 2020October 23rd, 2023Well-being
Family having video chat with grandparents

Chances are your family health history includes many common medical issues like diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving Day as National Family Health History Day, since it’s a time when multiple generations typically get together to celebrate.

Even if you can’t gather around the table with all of your family in person, you can still find ways to carve out time to discuss your medical family tree ― all it takes is a little creativity!

Knowing your family’s health history helps you understand your personal risk factors for disease. It makes it easier to talk to your doctor about recommended preventive care and lifestyle changes that can help you, and those you love, stay healthier.

Quick Tips to Create Your Medical Family Tree

Unlike preparing the Thanksgiving feast, turning Turkey Day into a family health sleuthing session doesn’t require hours of work or need to involve unnecessary drama.

Use the U.S. Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait Tool to help you get started:

  1. Talk to as many relatives as you can. Collect information about your parents, children, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles to get the most complete picture. At least three generations of blood relatives should be represented if possible.
  2. Ask the right questions. These are just a few key questions to ask each person you interview or relative, living or deceased, you discuss:
    • Do you have chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes?
    • Have you had any other serious illnesses, such as cancer or stroke?
    • How old were you when you developed these illnesses?
  1. Capture your conversations. Fill in the American Medical Association family health history form, or use a smartphone app to record your conversations.

Use the Personal Health Record to Keep Track of Your History

Independence Blue Cross members have another tool they can use to keep track of their health history ― their Personal Health Record (PHR). Members can get this tool at and on the IBX mobile app for Android and iPhone.

It is updated automatically with information from claims data. Members can also add their own information to keep their PHR up to date, and either print a copy or have it on their smartphone to discuss at doctor appointments.

Anytime is a good time to have a conversation about how your DNA affects your well-being, but at Thanksgiving, plan to serve your turkey with a side of family health history.

Mary Eileen O'Connor

My personal philosophy about health and well-being is to have simple goals and stick to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug. When I’m not busy writing creative content for a variety of audiences, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.