Using family history

to improve your health.

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Family Health History

Health Family Tree Lesson Plan

Engage students in learning about health family history and the connection between genetics and health. By completing this module students will:

  1. Understand basic information about common (and in some cases preventable) diseases, understand that the risk for developing these diseases has both a hereditary and environmental component, and understand what it means to be "at risk" for developing these diseases.
  2. Assess personal risk for developing common diseases by filling out the online Health Family Tree tool at home with their families.
  3. Construct a "Reduce your Risk" Promotional Campaign aimed at educating their peers.

Follow the suggested lesson plan below to work your way through this module.

Activity Abstract Length
Pre-Activity Movie: Using Family History to Improve Your Health Use this movie to spark discussion with students about what it means to be at risk, health family history and why it is important. The movie also acts as a teaser to excite student interest before doing the Risk Continuum and Pick The Risk activities. 6 mins.
Risk Continuum A whole-class kinesthetic demonstration of what it means to be in a "risk group" for developing heart disease based on family history/genetics. 15 mins.
Using Family History to Improve Your Health Web Quest Students explore the Using Family History to Improve Your Health module on the Genetic Science Learning Center website to complete a web quest. 50-80 mins.
Pick the Risk: The Polygenic Pedigree Challenge Students track and record the passage of pom poms (representing genes) through generations of a family using a pedigree. Students learn that common chronic diseases (such as heart disease) run in families and are caused by the combined action of multiple genes. 30-45 mins.
Reduce Your Risk: A Promotional Campaign Students design a promotional campaign targeting their peer group to educate them about how to reduce their risk of developing preventable diseases. Students submit a proposal form highlighting the key points and ideas for the campaign; creating a product from their proposed campaign is optional. 50 mins.
What's Your Family Health History Story? Collect your family health history using this easy to follow guide and checklist. Arrange your family's health history into a pedigree chart. Student pages available in English and Spanish. At-home assignment

Pre-Activity Movie: Using Family History to Improve Your Health

Risk Continuum

A whole-class kinesthetic demonstration of what it means to be in a "risk group" for developing heart disease based on family history/genetics.

Learning Objectives
  • People can be assigned to a risk group for developing heart, and other diseases based on family history/genetics.
  • Lifestyle choices can positively or negatively influence the risk of developing heart disease.
  • A higher risk means a greater chance of developing heart disease, not an inevitability of developing it.
  • Though a lower risk means there is a reduced chance, it is still possible for members of this risk group to develop heart disease.
Risk Continuum Print-and-Go

Using Family History to Improve Your Health Web Quest

Students explore the Using Family History to Improve Your Health module on the Genetic Science Learning Center website to complete a web quest.

Learning Objectives
  • Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, run in families.
  • An individual’s environment, personal choices and genetic make-up all contribute to their risk of developing a chronic disease.
  • Family health histories can provide important information about an individual’s risk of develoing a chronic disease.
  • Lifestyle modifications that improve health can reduce an individual’s risk of developing a chronic disease.
Using Family History to Improve Your Health Print-and-Go

Pick the Risk: The Polygenic Pedigree Challenge

Students are challenged to track and record the passage of colored pom poms (representing genes) through generations of a family using a pedigree.

Learning Objectives
  • An inherited trait can be determined by one or by many genes.
  • All humans have the same genes, but each inherits slightly different forms or “flavors” of each gene.
  • Many common diseases (such as heart disease) run in families and have a genetic component.
  • Most common diseases are caused by the combined action of multiple genes and environmental factors.
  • An individual’s risk of developing a common disease is estimated by looking at siblings, parents and grandparents in a family medical history.
Pick the Risk: The Polygenic Pedigree Challenge Print-and-Go

Reduce Your Risk: A Promotional Campaign

Students design a promotional campaign that educates their peer group about how to prevent common diseases (e.g., heart disease or obesity).

Learning Objectives
  • Certain measures can be taken to reduce an individual’s risk of developing common diseases.
  • Educating the public abouthow to reduce their risk of developing common diseases is important.
Reduce Your Risk: A Promotional Campaign Print-and-Go

What's Your Family Health Story?

Collect your family health history using this easy to follow guide and checklist. Arrange your family’s health history into a pedigree chart. Student pages available in English and Spanish.

Learning Objectives
  • Knowing your family health history is an important first step in improving or maintaining your own health.
What's Your Family Health Story Print-and-Go