LIMA — The Boy Scouts always suggest to be prepared. That's good advice in general but especially so when it comes to your health.A program through West Central Ohio Health Ministries offers people a chance to get a little more prepared when it comes to their health, or at least their medical histories. Dubbed the medical notebook program, it assists individuals in gathering personal medical information into one place. The notebook can take the frustration out of filling out forms in a doctor's office or ease the stress of intake at an emergency room, and that can create a very healthy peace of mind.“Everything is in one location. It's important as families spread out more … in an emergency it's hard to compile (medical) information at the last minute,” said Tami Gough, coordinator for health ministries. “If it's all compiled in one uniform notebook, it leaves a lot of time out of the intake process.”Because the group operates through area churches, the notebook program is usually requested by a church for interested groups ranging from five to 15 people, Gough said. They are scheduled as requested and are $15 per person, which covers the cost of materials — a notebook and forms. The program is broken into two sessions a couple of weeks apart lasting about two hours each. Participants learn what information should be compiled and are given “homework” at the first session to locate any medical documentation they may not know off the tops of their heads, she said. That information can include any and all medications, dates of past surgeries, tetanus shots, family history of cancer or heart disease … anything that could help medical personnel in treatment. Topics like advance directives and medical power of attorneys are also covered in the program. Rev. Dottie Kaiser, director of pastoral care for Lima Memorial Health System, conducts a session on advance directives and said the notebook is good because it “puts everything in one place. If you put something like this together, you have it at your fingertips.”Amy Marcum, director of spiritual care at St. Rita's Medical Center, agreed. Marcum is a member of the health ministries advisory board.“Having forethought and thinking ahead about medical decisions, or who you'd like to speak for you, is important. The medical notebook can help,” Marcum said. “It helps your family and your loved ones.”Knowledge is power, and the more educated you are about your health, the better, Kaiser said. She encourages people to talk about medical and advance directive issues with their families.“We need to take responsibility,” she said.And although the elderly population — who on average have more doctor visits and medications — might find the most use from the medical notebook, both Gough and Kaiser suggest the notebook for anyone interested in gathering personal health statistics. Mothers can keep children's records organized, Gough said, and Kaiser suggested it as a tool for students heading off to college. If needed, that information would be close at hand for a college clinic or in an emergency.“It also helps to know your family history for screenings or lifestyle changes,” Gough said.Again, knowledge is power. A 40 year old who knows what medical demons lurk in his or her family history can better combat them now rather than be surprised a few decades down the road.According to www.mayoclinic.com, family medical histories should include at least three generations of the family tree, and include such branches as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and nieces and nephews. Aside from the basics like dates of births and deaths, you should try to add details about diet and exercise habits, or smoking or weight problems that have surfaced throughout the generations.And any occurrences of the following conditions in your family‘s history should be noted: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, asthma, mental illness, stroke, vision or hearing loss, arthritis, miscarriages and infertility, according to the Mayo Clinic website.Even the United States government has promoted the idea of gathering personal medical information. The United States Surgeon General, in cooperation with agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, has created an online medical notebook of sorts at www.familyhistory.hhs.gov.Called “My Family Health Portrait,” this interactive online tool creates a downloadable medical family tree and is confidential. The government provides the software only and no record is made of your information, according to its privacy statement.So whether at age 80 or 40 or if you're heading to college, knowing the facts about your medical history can save you time at the doctor's office or give you a heads up on a potential problem. Whatever the case, it's all about being prepared, and you don‘t have to be a Boy Scout to take heed of that motto. For details on the medical notebook program, contact Gough at 419-227-0753. Visit www.surgeongeneral.gov for more information about “My Family Health Portrait” or about medical histories in general.