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Website of the Week — My Family Health Portrait


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

This week, it's a site where you can record and organize your medical history. At a media briefing Tuesday to introduce the updated site, U.S. acting Surgeon General Dr. Steven Galson stressed the value of knowing what conditions run in your family.

"Family health history is an important medical tool," said Galson. "It's been proven over the years. It may sound and look low-tech compared to some of the tools of modern medicine, but the truth is [that] family health history is actually becoming more important today, not less."

Galson says My Family Health Portrait gives people a way to collect their medical history in a way that will be helpful to doctors and other health care providers.

"And then the tool itself organizes the information in a way that's going to be helpful for [medical] practitioners. Secondly, it enables people to share this information easily with other family members. Third, it gives the consumer control and very, very importantly, privacy. It's secure, and it's controlled by the consumer."

Although My Family Health Portrait is a project of a U.S. government agency, you don't have to be an American to use it. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services is making the code freely available, and a Mexican government institute is set to launch a Spanish version.

In the United States, most medical records are still kept on paper. But many experts say a move to electronic records will cut costs, improve care and reduce errors. Galson says the My Family Health Portrait website is organized so your information can be included in computerized health records when they become available.

"The tool is ready for our electronic health records era," he stressed. "The information it assembles can be integrated into electronic health records. And the importance of that is that your family health history and information, and your personal clinical information can then be blended and be a lot more useful for your health care practitioner."

See how you can record your family medical history at familyhistory.hhs.gov, or get the link to this and more than 200 other Websites of the Week, from our site, voanews.com.

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