Posts Tagged ‘children’s health’

Don’t forget your family health history

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

generations-at-the-tableAs everyone is preparing for holiday travels or out-of-town visits from relatives, it is a good time to remember that family gatherings give you the perfect opportunity to discuss your family health history.  Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day.

A family health history is a written or graphic record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. A useful family health history shows three generations of your biological relatives, the age at diagnosis of any specific diseases, and the age and cause of death of deceased family members. The family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing disease in individuals and their close relatives.

If you have already discussed your family health history, now is a great time to update it.  And if it is not something you have had a chance to do, holidays are the perfect opportunity, when everyone is gathered together.  You can read more about the importance of family health history in some of our previous blog posts.  And you can go to our website to find our helpful family health history forms.  Learning about your family’s health history may help to ensure that your family can celebrate more holidays together in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dr. Fisk GreenToday’s guest post is written by Ridgely Fisk Green, PhD, MMSc. Dr. Fisk Green is Carter Consulting contractor at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Fisk Green works on improving children’s health through better use of family health history information.

Today, when you end up sitting next to Aunt Irma who likes to talk about everyone’s health problems, don’t tune her out! Take the opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to enjoy delicious food and get together with family. You share more than just special occasions with your family—you share genes, behaviors, culture, and environment. Family health history accounts for all of these. Your mother’s genes may have contributed to her type 2 diabetes and you may share some of those genes, but the fact that she never exercises and eats fast food every day also influences her health, and you might share some of those habits, as well.

Family health history information can also be important for keeping your child healthy. Family health history can help your child’s doctor make a diagnosis if your child shows signs of a disorder. It can show whether your child has an increased risk for a disease. If so, the doctor might suggest screening tests. Many genetic disorders first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.

Family health history is also very important if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a baby. Remember to collect family health history information from the baby’s father, too. Family health history can tell if you have a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your family health history or the father’s family health history.

Tips for Collecting Family Health History for Your Child

•Record the names of your child’s close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. For genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, include more distant relatives. Include conditions each relative has or had and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
•Use the US Surgeon General’s online tool for collecting family health histories, called “My Family Health Portrait.”
•Discuss family health history concerns with your child’s doctor. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, share family health history information with your doctor.
•Update your child’s family health history regularly and share new information with your child’s doctor.
•The best way to learn about your family health history is to ask questions. Talk at family gatherings and record your family’s health information—it could make a difference in your child’s life.

Click on this link to learn about family health history from the CDC.

The Military and the March of Dimes

Monday, November 12th, 2012

military-and-mod4

In its drive to promote healthy pregnancy, the March of Dimes considers every avenue of outreach. This has included cordial ties with U.S. Armed Forces in order to support military families. Historically, our earliest years coincided with the global catastrophe of World War II when our founder – President Franklin D. Roosevelt – was Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. In that troubled time, our military ties were many and various. An early research grant went to Drs. John Paul and Albert Sabin to find out why American GIs in Egypt contracted polio when native populations seemed immune to the disease. The Foundation created a fund-raising unit that coordinated its annual “March of Dimes” campaigns with all branches of the military. Our Armed Forces Division was so popular that top brass such as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Admiral Chester Nimitz wrote enthusiastic public messages of support for our fight against polio.

After the war, the most conspicuous military program was the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). MATS was a standing agreement of the March of Dimes with the U.S. Air Force to airlift iron lung respirators to epidemic areas and even individuals with paralytic polio to hospitals for special care. In one case, MATS cargo aircraft shipped iron lungs to a polio epidemic in Japan in 1961. With the advent of the Salk polio vaccine developed with March of Dimes funds, the Foundation ensured that military personnel were protected from the polio virus. Military personnel and their families from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard dispensary to the U.S. Army Hospital at West Point participated in March of Dimes polio vaccination programs.

When the March of Dimes turned toward birth defects prevention in the 1960s, our involvement with the military also turned in a new direction. We then maintained on staff an official liaison to the military as we broadened our approach to birth defects by focusing on all the determinants of healthy pregnancy. And, in our examination of the genetic causes of birth defects, we provided advice to Viet Nam era veteran groups about medical and genetic counseling for victims of Agent Orange. Our relationship to the Veterans of Foreign Wars has been mutually supportive for decades, and several March of Dimes national ambassadors have been members of military families. One of these, Cody Groce, was very proud to appear with Gen. Colin Powell at our National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, DC in 1998. Our most recent effort in support of military families has been our involvement in Operation Shower.

In the darkest days of World War II, FDR offered these words to characterize his understanding of the March of Dimes mission: “Nothing is closer to my heart than the health of our boys and girls and young men and young women. It is one of the front lines of national defense.” With this impetus, the March of Dimes went on to defeat polio and launch a new mission against birth defects and prematurity. FDR’s original sentiment bears close resemblance to our passionate quest for “stronger, healthier babies” today.

Note on photo: Sailors in formation spell out “March of Dimes” on board aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1962

Clinical Preventive Services for Women

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

The March of Dimes commends the Institute of Medicine for its thoughtful recommendations in the report released yesterday, “Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps.” If adopted by the federal government, these recommendations will have a significant impact in improving the health of women, infants and children.

Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes, said “the March of Dimes is pleased that the panel affirmed our recommendations that insurers be required to cover, without cost-sharing, prenatal and preconception care, as well as all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The March of Dimes also commends the panel for recommending coverage of the services of lactation consultants and rental fees associated with breastfeeding equipment.

“The March of Dimes strongly supports the panel’s recommendations for mandatory coverage of routine prenatal care for pregnant women. Prenatal services should include not only physical examination and specific tests but also counseling on nutrition and tobacco cessation.” Last week, a comprehensive systematic review of all studies over the past 50 years demonstrated that tobacco use during pregnancy is linked to higher rates of birth defects. Given that up to 14 percent of U.S. women report smoking during pregnancy, these counseling services are critical to healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

With regard to contraception, numerous studies have shown that pregnancies spaced too closely together present a medical risk factor for preterm birth, the principal cause of newborn death. Appropriately spacing pregnancies — for which access to family planning services is critically important — has been shown to reduce the risk of preterm birth. The Institute of Medicine has estimated that the economic cost of preterm birth totaled at least $26.2 billion in 2005, the latest year for which data was available. The medical component of that total was $18.8 billion – 85 percent of which comprised health services provided to infants.

Dr. Howse made it clear that “the March of Dimes looks forward to supporting the panel’s recommendations as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers their adoption.”