By David Saadat, MD


When we all gather around the Thanksgiving table this year, enjoying the bounty of riches, perhaps the last thing you want to discuss over a pile of mashed potatoes whipped with butter, milk and topped with gravy is your family’s health history. Nonetheless, it might be a good time to start that conversation.

It doesn’t have to be a morbid or maudlin conversation. If you not yet aware, it is a good time to know that family history is important to health. This is why the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared Thanksgiving Day as National Family Health History Day. Few people are aware of this even though it has been recognized since 2004.

It is a great time to share family health history, to discuss and record the health issues that run in the family.

It might be an even brighter celebration if good health runs in your family. And, if not, it will be a good time to make sure everyone knows the facts about what does seem to run in the family. The Surgeon General has even created a web-based tool to help families organize their history. It’s a tool that can be shared among family members and presented to the family doctor. It’s called “My Family Health Portrait.” Health is certainly something for which we all must be grateful, and Thanksgiving is a great time to remember this. You can access the tool at

November Acknowledges Multiple Health Challenges

Another reason that Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to discuss family health is that the month of November is dedicated to the acknowledgment of a multitude of health issues. The month is dedicated to the awareness of diabetes, bladder health, epilepsy, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. It is also a time to focus on healthy skin as it is National Healthy Skin Month. The skin is the largest organ and it’s important to keep this organ functioning in good health.

November is also the month in which World Antibiotic Awareness Week falls from November 12 – 18th. This is the time for communities across the globe from all sectors – health, science, industry, the public – to raise awareness about the importance of better and appropriate use of antibiotics.

Great American Smoke Out

November also hosts the Great American Smokeout which is described as “an annual intervention event on the third Thursday of November by the American Cancer Society.” According to the American Cancer Society, “Approximately 40 million American adults still smoke, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the country.” If you and your family members are smokers, you may want to address the issues that often accompany this habit at your Thanksgiving gathering. Maybe the smokers in your family will commit to a date in which everyone stops smoking. You’ll have an instant support group and something to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.

Survivors Of Suicide

November is also the month National Survivors of Suicide Day was as a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. This day is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

So Much To Be Thankful For

When you look at all the diseases that are brought to awareness during the month of November, we all realize that we have so much to be thankful for. Our health truly is our greatest wealth. May your family be blessed with good health and a warm and loving Thanksgiving.

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