Health research project at UI Health redefines ‘average patient’
May 4, 2018

The All of Us Research Program aims to collect health data from more than one million Americans, with the goal of advancing precision medicine.

Any adult who has received care at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health) hospital or clinics now is eligible to participate in the All of Us Research Program. This National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort will improve health by gathering data from at least one million people living in the U.S. in order to advance precision medicine, which helps patients by focusing on individuals’ unique health factors.

UI Health patients and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) community began participating in the program in September.

Participants share health information such as lifestyle habits; medical and family history; blood samples; and vital signs including blood pressure, height, and weight. Participants can choose their level of involvement and receive study results and program data.

With the data, All of Us personnel hope to improve the medical and research community’s ability to design disease prevention and treatment strategies around individuals, taking into account their genes, environment, and lifestyle.

“For too many years, medicine has been based around the ‘average patient,’ often to the detriment of vulnerable, minority communities whose circumstances and health risks are unique and far from average,” said Robert Winn, MD, associate vice chancellor of community-based practice at UIC and director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to medicine is less than efficient but, until now, research alternatives have been limited,” said Winn, one of two principal investigators of the All of Us program at UIC, which the NIH is funding with a five-year, $45 million award.

UIC shares the funding with Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. These institutions and their affiliated hospitals and clinics make up the program’s Illinois enrollment center, which seeks to enroll 120,000 Illinoisans into the study.

“We have a unique opportunity to change the face of medicine,” said Martha Daviglus, associate vice chancellor for research at UIC, executive director of the Institute for Minority Health Research, and principal investigator on the All of Us program in Illinois.

“Historically, there has been little diversity in medical research,” Daviglus said. “Because many minority communities have not been adequately represented in research, they have not benefited equally from new prevention strategies, treatments, or cures.”

Robert Barish, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs, said the UIC community and its patients can help bridge this research gap.

“With UIC’s unique ability to reach diverse communities through our clinics throughout Chicago, and through our regional College of Medicine campuses, we are well positioned to help answer the questions that will help bring precision medicine to everyone,” Barish said.

All of Us forms a key part of the Precision Medicine Initiative, which former President Barack Obama announced in 2015.

To participate, email joinallofus@uic.edu or call (312) 996-2778.