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Family Healthware™

Family Healthware™ is a Web-based research tool that can be used to assess a person’s familial risk for six diseases (coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and colorectal, breast, and ovarian cancer). It provides users in research studies with a “prevention plan” containing personalized recommendations for lifestyle changes and screening. For each person, the tool collects data about the following:

  • Health behaviors (e.g., smoking and exercise).
  • Screening tests (e.g., blood cholesterol and mammography).
  • Health history among his or her first- and second-degree relatives.

One set of algorithms in the software analyzes users’ family history data and assesses their familial risk for each of the six diseases. A second set of algorithms uses the data on familial risk, health behaviors, and screening results to generate personalized prevention messages. Family Healthware™ was developed by a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in clinical genetics, behavioral science, health communication, preventive medicine, and epidemiology, with support from a major commercial communications firm and a software development company.

Research and Evaluation

Evaluation of Family Healthware™ is being conducted to determine if personalized prevention messages tailored to familial risk will motivate people at risk to change lifestyle behaviors or seek additional medical advice or screening. Three academic research centers at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute, and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, using a network of primary care practices, have evaluated this tool. The study began enrolling patients in December 2005, and data collection was completed by the fall of 2007. As a result of this research, a series of papers are being published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at various workshops and meetings. A list of these publications is provided below.

To help fill gaps in our understanding of the role that family history plays in disease occurrence and prevention, CDC researchers are also analyzing data from past and ongoing population-based studies of chronic diseases, including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Survey.

Family Healthware™ Publications