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A research technician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center prepares to collect a blood sample from a participant in the “All of Us” research program. DAKE KANG/AP

In 2015, with the launch of his Precision Medicine Initiative, former President Barack Obama introduced to many of us the idea that health care could be different for everyone based on people’s genes, environments and lifestyles. We learned that health care is not “one size fits all” and that our medicines and treatments should not be either. To tailor health care to individuals, we would need to know more about a diverse selection of people on an individual level.

Three years later, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, are announcing the launch of open enrollment for All of Us Pennsylvania, part of the national All of Us research program. The goal of All of Us is to partner with 1 million people who are willing to share their health information with researchers to make sure the newest health discoveries are benefiting everyone.

Health care is based on research. Medications are developed through research, under rigorous review and with people agreeing to participate in research studies. By joining All of Us PA, participants will provide information to the All of Us research program from their electronic health records, personal history and bio samples (urine and blood for genetic testing, weight, height, blood pressure, etc.). Participants will have opportunities over many years to provide data about themselves that will help researchers learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biological make-up (such as genetic background) influence health and disease. This information is expected to lead to new treatments tailored to individual patients.

Precision medicine is an essential approach to disease treatment, especially in underrepresented populations. “One of the main goals of precision medicine is to close gaps in care,” says Mylynda Massart, MD, PhD, assistant professor of family medicine at Pitt and medical director at UPMC Matilda H. Theiss Health Center.

In the past, research did not always include people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Also, historically, people from certain racial and ethnic backgrounds have been reluctant to participate in research. Therefore, research has been done on limited patient populations. Now, researchers want to study, for example, whether a cholesterol medicine that was tested and works well in White men also successfully treats African American women. Doctors would even be able to look at our health data and determine which medications are best for our conditions.

If you are interested in knowing more about the All of Us PA research program, visit http://www.joinallofuspa.org or call 412-383-2737. Also, watch for the All of Us PA engagement team at community events, libraries or even at your pharmacy or health care provider’s office.

 

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