Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Create you personal Family Health History

Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - and even rare diseases - like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia - can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

To help focus attention on the importance of family history, the U.S. Surgeon General in cooperation with other agencies with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a national public health campaign, called the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative, to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.

In addition to the Office of the Surgeon General, other HHS agencies involved in this project include the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Click here for more information.

Pennsylvania Death Certificates can be more accessible and available online

You can help in a grassroots effort to have Pennsylvania make its older state death certificates much more accessible and available online.

Several states have already made their older death certificates available online, including Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. The states of Louisiana, New Hampshire and Vermont are in the process of doing so. For numerous other states there are online indexes. However, Pennsylvania has no publicly accessible index and continues the outdated and costly manual processing of each of its older death certificates one at a time. Click here to see links to the databases for these other states.

The Social Security Death Master File (with names, dates, places and numbers, and better known as the Social Security Death Index), which is updated weekly, is a death verification database used proactively to thwart identity theft and fraud. We understand government agencies, banks, insurance and credit card companies use it all the time to verify deaths and to stop the misuse of a deceased person's Social Security number. Expanding our proposed database to include all of Pennsylvania's death records (but with the same limited public access as outlined above) could be used in a similar manner by law enforcement and government agencies. The Division of Vital Records would itself be able to fill requests using the expanded database.

Click on this link for much more information and ways we all can help make this possible.