Family Health and Gatherings Amidst a Pandemic

‘Tis the season to gather, make memories with family & friends, and share great food. The rising cases of COVID-19 will make gatherings look a little different this year. It is important to take precautions and be safe while gathering this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great resource available to help you with tips to stay safe this year. When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pies! Did you know that Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day? It is a great opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history. Read on to learn more about staying safe this holiday season and learn more about your family health history.

Learning About Your Family’s History

Family gatherings are a great way to learn more about your heritage, learn about your family history, and any health issues previous family members have struggled with. Even if you are social distancing this year, find creative ways to collect this information.

When talking to your family, write down the names of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Discuss any conditions they have had and what the diagnosis was. Sharing chronic health conditions can be difficult, be sensitive to this information and make your goal clear, to prevent any health conditions from developing if you can avoid it.

Ask Questions

To find out more about the chronic conditions in your family, it’s important to ask a few questions. Make a list ahead of time before gathering virtually or in-person this Thanksgiving and start with some examples such as:

  1. Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes?
  2. Has your healthcare provider been concerned you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  3. Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  4. Approximately how old were you when these health conditions were diagnosed?
  5. What is your family’s ancestry? What countries or regions did your ancestors immigrate from?
  6. What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

Start with these questions and go from there. This is a great start to learning more about your family’s health history. Make sure to record this information, share it with your extended family, and update as you gain more information.


Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day

Follow-up and Act

After learning about your family’s health history, then follow up with your healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider about the next steps to take, future lab work, and what early screenings to consider. Time could be of the essence; some conditions will require specific screenings such as health histories that include:

  • Colon Cancer
  • Breast or Ovarian Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Chronic Blood Pressure Issues
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s
  • Dementia
  • Osteoporosis

Staying Safe at Gatherings

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of November 23, 2020, there are approximately 58,425, 681 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As cases continue to increase rapidly across the world, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate virtually. If you gather, do so with people that live in your immediate household. Remember, you can collect your family’s health history virtually, stay safe, and still enjoy a nice feast! If you decide to host a gathering or attend a gathering elsewhere, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Host an outdoor meal, weather permitting, or make sure there is good ventilation in your gathering space
  • Limit the number of guests in your home, or ask how large the group will be
  • Set expectations with your guest as to the precautions you will be taking
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in your home
  • Limit the number of people preparing food, or pitch in and support a local restaurant and have your meal catered

Encourage your guest to wear a mask when the mealtime is over, hand washes, or use sanitizer often. Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry. Wearing a mask and social distancing can ensure everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


This Thanksgiving, remember to be grateful for your health and family. Take advantage of a ZOOM gathering to connect with relatives in other cities, states, and countries! Start the conversation early and make it a yearly tradition to discuss any new health conditions before having your annual celebration.

Fact Check Sources:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Gathering During the Holidays

Family Health History Resource