What is Your Risk for Disease?

As homework, have each student read the story about the Genomisons, a family afflicted with many chronic diseases. As they read they should:

  • sketch the family tree including name and age for each individual (if they are deceased, include age at death). (See Completed Tree)
  • make a list of any ideas the Genomisons have about their health that lead to their making poor choices.

In groups, the students will use the website: Your Disease Risk (developed by the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention) to investigate a chronic condition affecting this family. (See List Below) Each group should:

  • Enter the data (found in the story) for the specific member of the family they are assigned by answering the questions on the website and have the website calculate disease risk for that family member.
  • Study the list of lifestyle choices that are increasing and decreasing the risk for disease presented by the website, and note how the risk changes as the lifestyle choices are altered.
  • Make a list of recommendations for this individual that would decrease their risk for this particular chronic disorder.
  • Report your findings and recommendations to the class as the teacher collects information on a chart, comparing the chronic conditions.
  • As each group presents their findings, the class should look for patterns of behavior or lifestyle choices that affect the overall health of this family.
  • Possible assessment items to check for student understanding - Using all of the information they now understand about chronic disease:
    • Have each student write a letter to the Genomisons informing them how changing their lifestyle will impact the expression of these chronic conditions.
    • Have each student answer the following question: What recommendations do you have for yourself, Janice Genomison, now that you have looked into your family history for these chronic conditions?
    • Have the students design an advertisement for a magazine that focuses on the prevention of one or more common chronic conditions.

Family Member

Calculate Disease Risk for this Chronic Disorder (click on each disorder for more information)

Matt Genomison

Heart Disease

Matt Genomison

Skin Cancer (melanoma)

Lisa Genomison

Diabetes

Lisa Genomison

Osteoporosis

Lisa Genomison

Heart Disease

Your students may want to collect their own family history in regards to common chronic conditions. Here is a website that can help them. They can also use the Disease Risk website to calculate risk as they did in the activity. If they collect this information, encourage them to share it with their family doctor. If they feel they are at risk for a condition, they should also talk to their family doctor. If they decide that they need to see a genetic counselor, they can locate one near them through the National Society of Genetic Counselors. This website will also answer questions they may have about genetic counseling as a career.