Families Influence Health

Article excerpt

"Chronic degenerative diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, have replaced acute infectious illness as the leading causes of death in the United States," says Thomas L. Campbell, a physician specializing in family related medicine. Since most of these diseases cannot be cured, Campbell believes more emphasis must be placed on health promotion and disease prevention.

The way to do this is through the family, Campbell says in a report published by the National Council on Family Relations. "The family has a powerful influence on health beliefs and behaviors because it is the primary social agent in the promotion of health and well-being. Preventive health-care programs and policies must focus on the family and utilize it as an important resource in health promotion."

Campbell points to a number of observable connections between health and family:

* The family is the primary setting in which attitudes and behaviors regarding diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use are learned and maintained.

* Unhealthy behaviors and genetic risk factors for diseases cluster within families, as family members tend to share not only genes, but diets, physical activities, and alcohol and tobacco use. …