Lingering pandemic not stopping All of Us

January 13, 2022

Dr. Bashir Easter

Our lingering pandemic continues to bring into immediate focus our individual and collective health, tasking us to find answers to an essential question: how do we more effectively care for ourselves and each other in this rapidly changing public health landscape? And how do we positively transform medical care for the longterm? This is precisely why our friends and the All of Us Research Program are continuing their quest to enroll at least one million people into the nation’s largest and most diverse health database. Bashir Easter, Ph.D., assistant director of UW All of Us Milwaukee joins us with an update.

Milwaukee Times: Dr. Easter, so how do we more effectively take care of ourselves and each other in this rapidly changing public health landscape? And how do we positively transform medical care for the longterm?

Dr. Bashir Easter: As part of a constellation of forces working toward better, more equitable health care in the US, the All of Us Research Program aims to answer these questions in partnership with…well, everyone. All of Us is a national effort run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create the largest, most diverse database of health information of its kind over a period of at least 10 years. Researchers can use this data to study health and illness so that ways of diagnosing, preventing, and treating health conditions can lead to improved health for generations to come. At the local level, this national program is community-informed, relying on guidance from and collaborations with local leaders, organizations, and community members. These relationships ensure that the program is responsive, builds trust, and treats all involved as partners.

Milwaukee Times: How has this lingering pandemic impacted your work?

Dr. Bashir Easter: We are stressing to individuals that they can do their original sign-up and surveys online. Then when they can come in for their biomedical samples, they should feel confident that our team is vaccinated and will wear N95 masks. We also have masks for anyone who comes to enroll, in addition to hand sanitizer readily available.

Milwaukee Times: What is the secret sauce to the work you do?

Dr. Bashir Easter: UW-Madison’s Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee, led by director Gina Green-Harris, has been enrolling for the past four months. Since that time, the Center has been expanding on its commitment to Asset Based Community Development, an approach that honors the strengths and assets of communities in Milwaukee, from businesses and schools to church organizations and the talents and skills of individual community members. In addition, our Community Advisory Board made up of local leaders and neighborhood champions provides guidance and access to networks and vital resources to help the Center realize the values of the program. Our Community Advisory Board or CAB, as we call it, serves as the conscience of the All of Us UW team in Milwaukee. Their knowledge of All of Us and the underserved communities in which they live and work ensures that we meet people where they are and honor their perspectives, experiences, and contributions to greater health equity.

Milwaukee Times: What’s next for people? How can they enroll and take part?

Dr. Bashir Easter: The All of Us Research Program seeks to enroll anyone who is an eligible adult (18 and older) and interested in joining. Studying data from a diverse group of people can help researchers learn more about what makes people sick or keeps them healthy because where we live, how we live, and our background can all affect our health. In the past, health research left out or even maligned many different groups of people, which has resulted in researchers knowing less about their health. The Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships’ All of Us site welcomes all prospective enrollees but has a special mission to educate, enroll, and empower underrepresented communities of color to be part of health research. We first need to collectively invest time and resources in improving health literacy in our city, and then from this foundation, we plan to be part of empowering our neighbors to be advocates for their health and to have a significant role in the medical research that is made possible by the data the All of Us Research Program collects. For more information or to make an appointment to enroll, call (414) 219-3810, Option 1 or visit nationally,

Milwaukee Times: Dr. Easter, thank you very much.