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Surgeon general adds to call for health talk on turkey day
November 25th, 2010
11:15 AM ET

Surgeon general adds to call for health talk on turkey day

When you're together passing the turkey, dressing and pie this Thanksgiving, take a minute to talk about your family's health history, urges the U.S. surgeon general.

"Knowing your family health history can help you actually prevent disease, or detect diseases, such as many forms of cancer, for early treatment," says Dr. Regina Benjamin in a holiday statement .

The Department of Health and Human Services has prepared an internet tool in English and Spanish, designed to help families collect data about illness and consequently help their family doctors provide better care.  Knowing what has made members of your family sick in the past can help doctors develop strategies to help you prevent illness in the future.

Benjamin's statement coincides with the third annual campaign by the non-profit organization Engage With Grace, which encourages families to use the gathering of families for Thanksgiving to discuss end-of-life wishes of loved ones.

Many readers of CNNHealth's  story this week on Engage With Grace's push to get people talking thought it was too much of a downer.

Mehatedinner wrote: I couldn't disagree with this more. Enjoy the holiday. Tell the kids you're thankful to be there with them and that you love them. Our family seemed to have a history of bad news announcements at dinners and holidays. It doesn't make for good memories and can kind of leave one paranoid about getting the fam together.

KritterKat agreed: Way too morbid! Who would want to sit around the dinner table (with kids) and talk about this stuff? What a downer! No freaking way I would want this conversation at my dinner table. Just write a living will, and when the time comes your family can read it. That's what a living will is for. No need for extra discussions or pondering death at the dinner table. "Oh, by the way Auntie, your dressing reminds me of death..."

But others, after having to make a hard decision, could see the value in such conversation:

Mommy2Caden wrote: Morbid as it may sound, it's important to know what your loved ones ultimately want. Thanksgiving IS a time when the whole family is together. I'm speaking from experience because this past January my grandmother had a stroke and was placed on life support. We all believed that we knew what she wanted (not life support)  but if we had had this conversation as a group and she had SAID that, I think it would have been an easier decision for my grandfather.

And Jake 1969 related to a line in the story:  "Something very torturous is to have lost somebody and to worry after the fact that you didn't do what they wanted because you didn't know what they would have wanted." So true. Experienced it first hand. Things can happen fast and it gets tough.


soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. celisti

    Just stop eating turkey or any meat on this day, but veggies, salad and fruits, and everyone will be healthy! We should change the turkey eating tradition and the whole nation will be much healthier and grateful by getting rid of turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

    November 25, 2010 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      Except that the turkey is probably the most healthy thing on the table.

      November 25, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
  2. Cindy Merrill

    It is possible to be healthy without eating eggs, fish, meat or dairy, but the pills you have to take would add up to at least 12 or more- some amino acids can be found ONLY in meat, seafood or dairy products. I buy cage-free eggs and Organic dairy products whenever possible, as well as Grassfed beef. As for turkey, the ones found in grocery stores taste like cardboard compared to true heirloom species of turkey- these birds may be harder to raise, but well worth the effort.

    November 25, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. tony

    I've noticed that CNN doesn't run any anti-smoking stories any more. is over eating now more dangerous then smoking or is it because the president smokes?

    November 26, 2010 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Odalice Yolanda Feliz

    Loose weight eat great.

    November 26, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. razzlea

    if you're eating year round then its ok to reward yourself on thanksgiving, but its not an excuse to over indulge and continue eating badly untill the last day of December. But i do thinkt he way you cook sets an example for your family , i noticed that overweight parents are more likley to have overweight kids which make sense since they adapt the eating habits of the parents. Check out my health and fitness blog http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    November 29, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.