Diversity in health research participants is key to finding cures

Monday, July 9, 2018

The San Diego Tribune 


Enrollment opened recently for the All of Us Research Program, an unprecedented effort led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH and partner organizations around the country — including our employers, UC San Diego Health and the San Diego Blood Bank — are asking 1 million or more people to contribute a variety of their personal health and lifestyle information to a research database.

By tracking these data over time, patterns may emerge that could allow researchers to better tailor diagnostics, treatments and prevention tools to individuals. This approach is called “precision medicine.”

But the success of All of Us depends, in part, on maintaining high-level, long-term engagement with a diverse group of participants. Historically, human research studies have primarily involved white people. As a result, the knowledge gained from those studies aren’t always applicable to everyone else. Meanwhile, serious health disparities have emerged — certain health conditions that affect some groups of people more than others, or therapies that work better for select groups.

To fill these gaps in our scientific knowledge, and to ensure that precision medicine advances work for everyone, we want the 1 million or more participants to reflect the rich diversity of the United States. To achieve this, All of Us partner organizations have set goals to recruit volunteer participants from communities that have been underrepresented in research in the past — this includes many races and ethnicities, age groups, geographic regions, gender identities, sexual orientations and health statuses. Read more.