“The average American commutes one hour a day.” “The average American sees a doctor four times a year.” How many times have you heard statistics like this?
The often-discussed “average American” is a combination of the American people’s diverse traits, needs, and experiences to develop one generic point of reference. Most medical care and treatment protocols were developed based on this outdated idea of the so-called average person, with white males historically serving as the basis. The All of Us Research Program shifts the focus to each individual because no one is an “average American.”
Differences in race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and geographic or financial access affect our health in many ways. Treatments based on an average do not consider these differences, which can cause some people to experience poorer health outcomes.
How can health equity — a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible — be achieved when we ignore the socio-cultural elements that can lead to health disparities?
Instead of consolidating data into an average, we need to expand the breadth and depth of data to address health disparities and individuals’ needs, thereby advancing health equity and health outcomes. The All of Us Research Program, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can help move the health system toward that goal.
What is the All of Us Research Program?
The NIH All of Us Research Program gathers health data on people from all backgrounds, including those who typically have not been fully represented in health research programs. It aims to build a large database that accurately captures the diversity of the U.S. population. Custom tools and software will help analyze the data and ensure it is included in future healthcare studies in a secure manner. This critical data may help researchers develop more effective treatments and potentially improve access to healthcare for more people.
What Makes the Health Data in the All of Us Database Different?
All of Us seeks to enroll 1 million or more people in the U.S. who will continually share their unique health data over an extended period of time. The database will be one of the largest of its kind, making it easier for researchers to detect emerging patterns.
A wide range of sources will fuel the database — from standard lab results to apps and devices like fitness trackers to electronic health records. Making this data easily available to scientists and researchers while keeping participants’ personal information private is paramount to the program’s success and key to leveraging its power. Also vital is empowering program participants as partners, meaning they have access to their information and a say in how the program is run.
How Does the Precision Medicine Initiative fit in with All of Us?
Simply put, the federal Precision Medicine Initiative is about seeing and treating people as individuals in an effort to improve health. Precision medicine focuses on what makes people unique: where they live, their lifestyle, their current health state, as well as their medical history, family history, and genetic makeup. Healthcare providers and researchers can use All of Us data to help make personalized recommendations for patients based on their health factors — not those of a fictitious average American.
Who Pays for the All of Us Research Program?
The program is funded through the NIH. Researchers, technology companies, community groups, healthcare providers, and other related entities can apply for grants and funding through the program to conduct studies and collect data that will enhance the database.
Elevance Health believes in the goals and methods of the All of Us Research Program. We promote the program because we believe it can help shape the future of healthcare by addressing health inequities, making solutions more personal and thereby improving outcomes. We are dedicated to advancing health equity so all people have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.