By Rob Morgan
The death certificate for one of my great-great-grandfathers says he died at age 85 from diabetes. The 1880 newspaper account of another great-great-grandfather reveals that he also died from diabetes at age 70. In five generations of my family, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are strongly pronounced.
I have been fascinated by the use of genealogical records to predict societal health trends for cancer and heart disease, a new Web app called TapGenes has the ability to predict likely health trends for me and my family using family health trends. TapGenes, winner of the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Challenge, has also allowed me to create a personal health history that I don’t have to leave at the doctor’s office.
Using Family Tree on Family Search.org, I was able to quickly import my family and ancestors to create a personal database that TapGenes uses to predict possible health concerns for me and my descendants. With a little help from a responsive TapGenes technical support, I was able to securely import five generations of my FamilySearch pedigree into a TapGenes pedigree structure. Then, using information gleaned from personal interviews, journal entries, obituaries, and death certificates, I was able to create health portraits for each ancestor. The portraits allowed me to document serious family lifestyle vulnerabilities such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. TapGenes then allowed me to create a report based on my genealogy showing possible areas of concern for me and my family that could be shared with family members.
Another valuable TapGenes tool is the health history I was able to create. I am retired and have collected numerous health care providers along the way that seem to always want to know what ailments my ancestors and I have experienced. They also want to know what surgeries I have had and what medications I take. Completing these health histories over and over again has become annoying and tedious. I have numerous, and some interesting, health issues and have informed my physicians that when I die, I will donate my body to “science fiction.” The TapGenes tool allows me to compile a complete health history that I own and that I can copy and hand to each health care provider I visit.
TapGenes is a new app and some minor bugs are still being worked out, but the technical support is great. There are so many opportunities for TapGenes to continue to develop: what if I could track attention deficit disorder, autism, mental illness, or addictions, and help my family members get early treatment or avoid things that would harm them?
When I was young, I thought I was indestructible. Making healthy choices in diet and exercise was not part of the culture I grew up in. As I get older, the culture of my youth has caught up with me. I wonder if I had known then what I know now, would have made different decisions about my future health? Maybe if I had embraced an effective health management system that documented my health issues based on my genealogical vulnerabilities, I could have been a healthier person. With TapGenes, I can pass down a way to help my descendants manage their health and make wise decisions.
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