By JAMES SAVAGE
Could your health information help cure or prevent major diseases?
The National Institutes of Health thinks so, and it’s enlisted the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s nursing college and eight others to convince the public.
The NIH launched its $1.5 billion All of Us Research program in May with an ambitious goal: to collect health data from 1 million Americans by 2022. It’s part of the agency’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which counters one-size-fits-all approaches to disease treatment and prevention by collecting behavioral, genomic and environmental details from demographically diverse groups of Americans.
Dr. Kelly Gebo, the All of Us research program’s chief medical and scientific officer, said in an interview with Public Health Newswire that the initiative’s mission is simple: “to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs.”
Of particular interest to researchers are historically underrepresented communities: racial, ethnic, sexual and gender minorities; rural residents; senior citizens; people with low income or low educational attainment; people with disabilities; and individuals who don’t have regular access to health care.
“With a cohort this diverse – demographically, geographically, and medically – we can get a fuller picture of health in the U.S. and move toward more tailored prevention strategies and treatments,” Gebo said.
All of Us participants share health data through surveys and electronic health records. They may be asked to provide physical measurements, medical and prescription histories, or details culled from biosamples such as blood and urine. The information will be housed in a database, and participants’ identities will be anonymous.
About 100,000 people have signed up for the program so far, about one-tenth of the goal of 1 million participants. That’s where UL Lafayette’s College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions enters the picture.
The college collaborated with Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., and Southern University in Baton Rouge to secure an NIH mini-grant they will use to sponsor a promotional seminar for the All of Us program.
The event will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Jan. 23 in the UL Lafayette Student Union Ballroom, said Dr. Denise Linton, an associate professor of nursing. She and Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, helped secure the grant.
The Louisiana Office of Public Health, staff from regional clinics and hospitals, and other health professionals and educators will be invited. Information about how the public can attend will be forthcoming, Linton said.
Participants won’t be asked to divulge health details, but should they choose to do so later, they’ll be helping medical professionals and researchers find remedies for what’s ailing residents in one of the nation’s most unhealthy states.
Oberleitner said Louisiana residents typically take part in health-related research, such as clinical trials, at levels much lower than the national average. As a result, vital information is missing that could result in better outcomes for patients.
“It is especially important then that three Louisiana universities were selected for participation. This is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of expanding and diversifying the pool of individuals who participate in critical national health-related research,” Oberleitner said.
In addition to UL Lafayette, Southern and Northwestern, six other nursing programs received funding: California State University, San Bernardino; Duquesne University, Pennsylvania; St. Peter’s University, New Jersey; Sam Houston State University, Texas; and the universities of Maryland and Tennessee.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing administers the NIH grant. The organization establishes education standards, and promotes undergraduate and graduate nursing education and research. It represents more than 800 nursing schools of nursing.
To learn more about the All of Us Research program, visit allofus.nih.gov.