For the past three years, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative public health campaign has been encouraging all Americans to learn about their family health histories and become aware of diseases that may run in their family. The project has focused strongly on outreach to communities of color, including public awareness campaigns targeted to African Americans and Hispanics, and a Spanish-language version of “My Family Health Portrait,” the online tool created to help families compile and track their health histories (available at


This past November, Acting Surgeon General Kenneth P. Moritsugu, MD, MPH, announced a new family history demonstration project that will focus on Alaska Natives. Co-funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the project will be led by Ruth Etzel, MD, at the Southcentral Foundation, an Alaska Native-owned health care organization based in Anchorage. The primary goal will be “to develop tools and methods for creating a common understanding about the role and importance of family health history among Southcentral Foundation’s staff.” The organization has a staff of more than 1,300 professionals, of whom more than half are Alaska Natives.

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