‘All of Us’ program looks to break through health disparities with ground breaking genetic research

April 11, 2019

Staff Photo – Pictured above are (from left) University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for
Community Engagement and Health Partnerships School of Medicine and
Public Health director Gina Green-Harris, MBA; Medical College of Wisconsin
All of Us Research Program Director of Community Engagement Dessie Levy,
PhD., RN, MS, APNP; The University of Wisconsin-Madison Kinesiology and
Neurology Occupational Therapy Program Professor Dorothy Farrar Edwards,
PhD.; Medical College of Wisconsin professor and principle investigator Jeff
Whittle, MD, DPH; and Medical College of Wisconsin associate professor and
Co-principal investigator Zeno Franco, PhD.

Recognizing the historical racial and gender imbalance in many medical trials, President Barrack Obama proposed during his 2015 State of the Union Address and Congress subsequently approved $215 million in funding for the National Institute of Health to collect and analyze anonymous health and genetic medical information.

The project has been described as the “moon shot” of medicine and early results were encouraging enough that in October 2016, Congress approved $1.45 billion and expanded the goal, according to Zeno Franco, PhD. associate professor of at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and “All of Us” site co-principal investigator. The goal, Dr. Franco said, is to gather a massive anonymous medical database in order to conduct research and study how health, genetics and environment affect individual human health, especially historically underrepresented groups including females, communities of color, persons with disabilities, the homeless and individuals with lower incomes, among others. The decades-long project is expected to lead to new medical treatments that are unique to individuals, and enable a future of precision medicine, he said.

The “All of Us” Research Program is part of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). By enrolling 1 million or more people by the year 2022, researchers hope to gather enough information to see health patterns that wouldn’t be visible on a smaller scale, according to Dessie Levy, PhD., RN, MS, APNP, director of community engagement at the “All of Us” research program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Results from this research may lead to better ways to prevent and treat different health conditions in the future, she added.

The Medical College of Wisconsin, in partnership with the medical college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Marshfield Clinic, is one of just 10 medical research partnerships in the United States which have already been approved for participation in the program and cleared to begin signing up participants. Precision medicine is health care that is based on an individual. It takes into account factors like where a person lives, what type of work they do, and their family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best. This will help give health care providers the information they need to make tailored recommendations, relevant to people of different backgrounds, ages, or regions, according to Dorothy Farrar Edwards, PhD., Professor of Kinesiology and Neurology Occupational Therapy Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-principal investigator.

The program will be formally unveiled in Milwaukee with a bus tour August 7-10, 2019. Already the MCW, UW-Madison and the Marshfield Clinic partnership has signed up 5,000 participants. The goal for Wisconsin is 100,000 participants within five years. To learn more or find out how to enroll, visit www.joinallofus.org, email allofus@mcw.edu or call 833-629-2638.