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Data could detect health patterns, nuances in specific populations.
All of Us program seeks participants
Groups seeks diversity for public health research
Leah Jackson
06/08/2018

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing and School of Allied Health hosted an informational meeting Wednesday to introduce the All of Us program, a public health research initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program is seeking 1 million participants nationwide for research based on precision medicine, an approach to medical treatment that takes into account an individual’s unique factors such as genetics, socioeconomics, environment, lifestyle, biology and medical history.

 NSU’s College of Nursing was one of six in the nation that received a grant to educate the public about All of Us and is the first to coordinate public outreach for the initiative. 

Dr. Colleen Leners, director of Policy for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in Washington, D.C., provided the background and future plans of All of Us to about 200 nursing and allied health students on NSU’s Shreveport and Alexandria campuses, as well as faculty from other institutions and interested community members.

Healthcare is currently targeted to the average patient, not the individual but medical treatment is “not one size fits all,” Leners said. “It’s finding the right treatment for the right person. Precision medicine targets what is important to you, to your DNA, your make-up, what is in your environment.” Precision medicine can use data to create a better understanding of how to prevent and treat diseases by studying patterns among geographical and ethnic demographics, she said.

Ethnic minorities and people are color are underrepresented in biomedical research and data collected could to be used to develop cures that work more effectively, Leners said.

“We want to reflect diversity in America. They are going to take into account your differences. Everybody was born into a different family in a different environment. Diversity is important because people do not respond the same to medications. Most studies and clinical trials have been on white males. We need community input and that means all the community.” she said.

All of Us is guided by privacy, trust and data security, Leners said. Participants’ preferences are respected and protected by certificates of confidentiality. Participants can control how much or how little information is included in the data and can opt out at any time. Researchers will have access to information on individuals in rural and/or underserved areas to understand nuances in populations. Information could positively affect early detection and prevention of some health conditions and healthcare providers could learn more about environmental and lifestyle factors and improve community health nursing.

Those who participate will learn about their own health, have access to their own data, ensure their community is included, meet others with similar health conditions and learn about additional research opportunities.

Many research institutes are participating in the All of Us Research Consortium, including the Scripps Research Institute, Cherokee Health, Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt University and other health associations.

Anyone interested in enrolling can sign up through joinallofus.org. Enrollment is open to anyone, including those with preexisting health conditions.

For more information, visit joinallofus.org or email Leners at cleners@aacnnursing.org. Information is also available locally by contacting Dr. Donald Johnston, professor or nursing at NSU’s Shreveport campus, at (318) 677-3078 or email johnstond@nsula.edu.