Know more about your health history, warn doctors

Article date: 8 February 2005

Nearly nine in 10 GPs (88%) told researchers forNorwich Union Healthcare that their patients need to know moreabout hereditary conditions that run in their family.

And of those who are able to provide some basichealth details, more than half of doctors say they don’t feelconfident that the information is accurate.

The ‘Healthcare Heritage’ study fromNorwich Union Healthcare also found that more than a third ofpeople (35%) admit they would not feel confident about answeringtheir GP knowledgeably when asked about illnesses that ran in theirfamily.

And most people don’t even thinkit’s anything to worry about, with four in five people sayingthey don’t feel they need to know about their family’shealth history.

Although there’s an increased interest in people trackingtheir own family history, it seems for most of us it’s out ofcuriosity (72%) rather than for health reasons (3%).

Dr Ann Robinson, GP, says: "We often know moreabout our friends’ health than we do about our owngrandparents, aunts and uncles. But a detailed knowledge of yourown family’s health problems could help to save your life.Most of the common, serious illnesses are potentially inherited. Ifyou know you have a family tendency to develop Alzheimer’s,heart disease, diabetes or some types of cancer, you can getspecific advice about how to prevent the disease yourself or atleast pick it up in the early stages. There is no advantage tobeing an ostrich about your family health history."

The study of more than 200 GPs and 1,000 adultswas commissioned by Norwich Union Healthcare as it launches its newonline health tree to provide people with a useful tool to recordtheir ancestors’ health history and find out more informationabout hereditary illnesses.

Nearly three quarters of GPs say that a familyhealth tree would be a great benefit for them to find out moredetailed information from their patients and that having a recordof this information to hand would:

  • Create greater awareness of hereditary diseases
  • Help prevent/delay further illness
  • Help speed up diagnosis
  • Help predict future illness

Dr Doug Wright, clinical development manager atNorwich Union Healthcare, adds: "Most of us have very limitedknowledge about our family’s health history. We want toencourage people to generate and update their family history topromote a sense of responsibility and encourage individuals to playa part in their own health care management. Being able to providethis information can help our GPs advise us better either in makinga diagnosis or guiding us on health risks."

The ‘Healthcare Heritage’ study alsofound:

  • Shockingly, a third of us (32%) have limited or no knowledgeat all about even our parents’ and siblings’ healthhistory
  • The Scots have the worst knowledge about their parents’and siblings’ health history, with nearly two in fiveadmitting so
  • It’s not just our own family’s health that we needto be aware of - more than half of people (51%) say theycouldn’t provide information about their partner’sfamily health history

The Healthcare Heritage tree is available online at andallows people to input family members and illnesses as well as findout more about hereditary illnesses from its online directory.


Media contacts:
Jo Missonor Charlotte Ruddlesdin, QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424

Norwich Union Press Office contacts:
LornaWiltshire: 07788 471 849
James Evans: 01904 452 791 or 07800 699 525

Notes to editors:

  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned TNS to carry outresearch amongst a representative sample of 202 GPs across the UKduring December 2004; and commissioned research amongst arepresentative sample of 1042 adults across the UK during 21-23December 2004.About Norwich Union Healthcare
  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of incomeprotection and private medical insurance products that coverover 750,000 lives. It is one of the largest providers of incomeprotection and private medical insurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by theFinancial Service Authority and is a member of the Associationof British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast. CallQBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424.

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