Gov't Tells Americans What to Discuss at Holiday Dinner; Declares Thanksgiving 'Family Health History Day'

By Susan Jones | November 22, 2012 | 8:26am EST

Don't leave home without a series of government tips in your pocket. (Photo from DOT Website)

( - The Thanksgiving holiday comes with a series of advisories and admonitions from your favorite Uncle Sam:

The Transportation Department wants you to "buckle up and slow down," especially on Sunday; the Food and Drug Administration wants you to store your medications safely when traveling; the surgeon-general wants you to "create a family health portrait" when you sit down to your turkey dinner with relatives; and the U.S. Agriculture Department wants you to "sample local businesses" when you start your holiday shopping.

Aside from the by-now-familiar tips on safe food handling and turkey cooking times (found at the website), the advice is flowing freely from the the U.S. government this Thanksgiving.

Here's a sample:

The U.S. Transportation Department has declared Nov. 25 to be "Drive Safer Sunday." DOT Secretary Ray LaHood says on Sunday, after a few days relaxing with family and friends, "tens of millions of people will be rushing home to prepare for another work week." He notes that the Sunday following Thanksgiving is the single busiest day of the year on the nation's highways: "That's why DOT is once again recognizing Driver Safety Sunday by reminding all motorists to buckle up and slow down -- particularly on this high volume day."

Surgeon-General Regina Benjamin has declared Thanksgiving to be the nation's ninth annual Family Health History Day: "An important step in prevention and wellnes is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness and many others,” Benjamin says.  She wants us to track illnesses from one generation to the next so health care providers can predict what may befall each of us.

Benjamin suggests that we "prepare for a Thanksgiving Day family conversation" by making a list of relatives, including parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins.

“On this Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you and your family will take a few minutes to create a family health portrait,” Benjamin said.  “Learning your family’s health history can be an enjoyable way to invest in the future of your health and your family’s health.”

The FDA says those of us who are traveling over the holiday weekend should make medication storage an "important consideration," right up there with "where you’re going to stay and what you’re going to do."

In a blog post, the FDA offers six tips for safely storing medication, including this one: Remember never to leave medicine or vitamins out on a table, countertop, bedside table or anywhere  your children could reach them." And this one: "While staying in a hotel, secure your medicines and vitamins in a location that your children cannot see or reach, such as a high cabinet or passcode-protected hotel room safe.

The USDA is touting Small Business Saturday by urging everyone to shop at small businesses whenever possible: "On Saturday, November 24, 2012, "please take time to thank the small business owners in your community for their contributions to the local economy by purchasing their products and services."

And if you find yourself stymied while shopping at one of those small businesses, you can always log onto, where you will find "seven smart shopping tips for Black Friday."

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