Arizona leading the way in participating in national research program

The aim: To build the largest and most diverse database of its kind
2:31 PM, Nov 17, 2021
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The All of Us mission is simple: speed up health research. To do this, the program is asking one million or more people to share their unique health data. This information will be added to a database that researchers can access to conduct thousands of studies on health and disease. Health data from diverse people will help fill knowledge gaps and could help researchers develop new and better treatments that benefit everyone.

“So much of what we’ve done in medicine over the years has not really taken into account individual differences,” said Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health. “We’re building a fundamental base of knowledge about how humans stay healthy and get sick and what to do about it. I think the practice of medicine will be altered in profound ways.”

Health care often takes a one-size-fits-all approach. In the future, the goal is to employ precision medicine that tailors health care and medical approaches to the individual. The All of Us Research Program is part of the Precision Medicine Initiative that was launched in 2016. Arizona is leading the country in number of participants in the program.

"In an age where we are discovering the promises of precision medicine, diversity in health research is more important than ever,” says Tomas Nuño, PhD, co-investigator for the All of Us Research Program UArizona-Banner and assistant research professor at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. “As a matter of health equity, all groups should have the opportunity to be able to prevent disease and avoid suffering from disease regardless of racial, ethnic, gender or other identity."

Medical research hasn’t always been inclusive, but the All of Us Research Program is changing that. A person’s experiences, genetics and environment all affect their health, but many minority racial and ethnic groups historically have been left out of research. As a result, researchers know less about their overall health and the effectiveness of medical interventions and treatments.

“When you have health information on a large, diverse group of individuals, you can start to study disease prevalence in a community,” said Jason Karnes, PharmD, PhD, BCPS, director of scientific programs for All of Us UArizona-Banner. And the research has already begun. More than 800 studies are being conducted in the All of Us Researcher Workbench using health data shared by participants. Researchers are studying everything from heart disease prevalence in minority populations to endometriosis health disparities to cancer outcomes with delayed treatment in low-income populations. The diverse data helps researchers better understand how different factors, including a person’s family history and environment, affect their health.

To ensure the data is reflective of the diverse U.S. population, researchers are conducting demonstration projects to “establish the reliability of the resource and the feasibility of the resource,” said Dr. Karnes who recently published an article in PLOS One on obesity prevalence in racial and sexual minority groups. He says the study showed that the All of Us participant base is “fairly representative of the U.S. population in terms of age, sex, race, and ethnicity.” This ensures all communities are represented in medical research.

In its fourth year of operation, All of Us UArizona-Banner is leading the country in enrollments. More than 46,000 core participants have shared their health data so researchers can better understand how genes, environment and lifestyle affect health.

With your help, the next health discovery could come from Arizona. To learn more or enroll, visit AllofUsAZ.org/Arizona or call 877-268-2684.

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