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Health Team

Duke researchers working on online family health tool

Posted December 23, 2013

Duke University researchers are developing a program that will help users start conversations with their loved ones regarding their family health.

MeTree is an online tool that will allow users to build a family pedigree by inputting family health information. The tool will then create a risk profile for each family member along with criteria needed to help lower their health risks.

“Family history is much more likely to be able to tell your doctor about what we should do to lower your risk for certain conditions than any other test available today,” said Dr. Lori Orlando, an assistant professor of family medicine at Duke University who is helping develop the tool.

MeTree is still in the research phase and won't be available for two years, but as families gather for Christmas, there are resources available to help relatives start crucial conversations about family health.

Duke offers a guide to family health history that has information about what questions to ask and how to build a family health pedigree – information that can be shared with the doctor. As a result, they may recommend steps like early and more detailed screening or genetic testing and counseling to help lower health risks.

Such discussions can be difficult to start with family members but are needed because they could reveal patterns of inherited risk for heart disease, diabetes, various cancers or other diseases, Orlando said.

“Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - all of them play a role in what your risk level is,” she said.

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