Knowledge of family health history is poor

5 July 2005

88% of GPs surveyed on behalf of the insurance company Norwich Union Healthcare said patients should know more about hereditary conditions; even when patients did provide basic family histories, less than half of the doctors felt confident about this information (see BBC news item). Another survey of members of the public found that a third knew little about their family's health history and over three quarters did not feel they needed to know. This is an interesting contrast to a recent US survey, in which over 95% of respondents did consider their family history to be important for their own health (see CDC report). UK GP Dr Ann Robinson said: "If you know you have a family tendency to develop Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes or some types of cancer, you can get specific advice about how to prevent the disease yourself or at least pick it up in the early stages". However, cancer and Alzheimer's disease experts have stressed that a family history of disease does not necessarily mean a person is at risk.

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