“Knowing your family history can save your life”
– Dr. Richard Carmona, Former US Surgeon General
Celebrate Family History Month - Every Month
Family History Day was initiated in 2004 as part of then U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona’s health education campaign on Family Health History. In 2005, BWH joined the Surgeon General’s family health history efforts with the BWH Family History Project. For the third year, volunteers and staff from the BWH Family History Project are available to assist BWH employees and patients who have questions about their family health history and the use of the “My Family Health Portrait” tool. “My Family Health Portrait” is available at http://www.hhs.gov/familyhistory. If you need assistance, please contact Monica Giovanni at 617 264-5835.
The Employee-Focused BWH Family History Project
In 2005 Brigham and Women's Hospital became the first healthcare institution, and the first employer in the nation, to provide formal support for the use of the Surgeon General's web based tool called "My Family Health Portrait." The Brigham and Women's Hospital Family History Project (BWH FHP) was established to encourage this effort. The BWH FHP is jointly funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) Education and Community Involvement Branch (ECIB), the BWH Biomedical Research Institute, and the Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics.
The BWH FHP has two goals:  to promote the improved health of all participants and  to support the enhancement of publicly available family health history tools.
Over a 14 month period from November 2005 to January 2007, our team engaged the 12,000+ employees of BWH in the use of the "My Family Health Portrait" tool to gather and organize their personal family health history. We estimate that approximately one-third of employees gathered and organized their family’s health history as part of this effort.
A comprehensive report of the employee focused phase of this project is now posted as a downloadable PDF (7.9 mb). The Phase 1 Project Report includes a description of the operational details of this project and can serve as a “how-to” manual for teams from other institutions who are interested in replicating these efforts. It is noteworthy that ~1% of the entire U.S. population and ~3.5% of the U.S. workforce are employed by hospitals and so there are many more opportunities throughout the country to engage hospital employees in this kind of effort.
Ongoing Work of the BWH Family History Project
With the completion of the employee-focused phase of the project, the BWH FHP focus has expanded to include non-employee patients and their families. Our interests include:  acting as a resource and clearinghouse for family health history information, and  collaborating with others who are interested in improving the methods for gathering family health history and its utilization in the healthcare sector.
BWH FHP Supported Tools
Family History Tools (Foreign Language Tools Included)
BWH Extends the U.S. Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" to Chinese-Speaking Employees and Individuals Worldwide (Press Release September 2006) Chinese Press Release
U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative:
Brigham and Women's Hospital Joins the U.S. Surgeon General's Efforts to Urge Americans to Know their Family Health History (Press Release November 2005)
Family History Project Press Release
Dr. Francis Collins Visits BWH to Help Launch the Family History Project
WBUR Radio News Stories on the Family History Project
This page was last modified on 9/18/2015