"you don't have to keep everything on paper": African American women's use of family health history tools

Tess Thompson, Joann Seo, Julia Griffith, Melanie Baxter, Aimee James, Kimberly A. Kaphingst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Little is known about African American women's collection of family health history (FHH) information and use of FHH tools. Most FHH research has investigated tools that use a biomedical paradigm, but other kinds of tools, such as those that include information about family social context, have been developed for use in diverse populations. Using mixed methods, we interviewed 32 African American women about behavioral steps to collecting FHH, family communication about health, and reactions to a biomedical FHH tool. Participants chose one of two FHH tools to take home. A follow-up call three weeks later assessed tool use. Many participants expressed support for writing down FHH information, but at baseline few had done so; most participants who had collected FHH information had done so verbally. Participants reacted positively to the biomedical FHH tool used during the interview, with many saying it allowed them to see patterns in their FHH. At follow-up, 67 % reported using their FHH tool, primarily to promote discussion among family members; only 32 % used the tool to write down FHH information. Although participants thought collecting FHH information was important and had positive reactions to both tools, the majority did not use the tools to write down information and instead collected FHH informally. These findings underline the importance of separating the components of FHH collection behaviors to analyze the steps used in FHH creation. Practitioners should consider additional methods of encouraging patients to create written FHHs in order to share the information with health care providers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-261
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Community Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Cancer
  • Family communication
  • Family health history
  • Racial/ethnic minorities


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