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The All of Us Research Program is dedicated to better health, both in the future and today. As we learn more about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we encourage you to visit coronavirus.gov for up-to-date information and tips to keep yourself, your family, and your community healthy.
For many participants and researchers, one of the most exciting parts of the All of Us Research Program is getting DNA results. But what results are we checking for?
The answer is many different things! For those participants who have given blood or saliva samples, All of Us will analyze the samples for different types of information, including genetic traits.
DNA is a molecule found in our blood and cells. Each person’s DNA is 99.9 percent the same as the DNA of every other person on Earth. Within the other 0.1 percent are all the DNA changes that make each of us unique.
Some DNA changes have to do with the way we look or how our bodies work. We call these traits. The color of your eyes and the color of your hair are both traits that are easy to see. Other traits are less obvious. Those could affect things like:
All of Us plans to start checking DNA for traits and ancestry (where your ancestors came from) soon. In the future, we will also be able to check your DNA for information that could affect your health, if you want to know. Want to be part of it? The first step is to sign up for the program, if you haven’t already. Visit JoinAllofUs.org to get started. You can also check out the January issue of this newsletter for more information about the process.
To learn more about genes and DNA, visit the National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Reference.
# of stops by the All of Us Journey
# of participants who have completed the consent process
# of participants fully enrolled*
*Fully enrolled participants are those who have shared their health information with All of Us, including giving blood and urine or saliva samples.
For Consuelo Wilkins, M.D., M.S.C.I., the best part of All of Us is the participants and how the program values them.
“One of the unique opportunities we have with All of Us is to actually have participants as part of the Executive and Steering committees,” Dr. Wilkins says. Participants on these committees help design different parts of the program and decide what will happen next.
Dr. Wilkins is the vice president for health equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the director of the All of Us Engagement Core.
“It’s really unusual to have participants involved in this kind of way in a large research program like this,” Dr. Wilkins says. “It’s unusual, and it’s important.”
Dr. Wilkins also helps the program understand how it can help participants. Before All of Us even began, she helped lead a study to find out what people would want from a research program and how to make them feel included.
Her team traveled all over the United States, hosting listening sessions in church basements and community centers. “We thought a lot about how to make sure the program would be able to accommodate and welcome people from all those different backgrounds,” she says. The team held 77 different sessions and heard from more than 650 people.
“In all of these places we went, people were really very interested in participating in the research,” she says. They also wanted to learn as much as possible.
“People just wanted information,” Dr. Wilkins says. “They wanted to know what researchers would be doing with their data and how they were using it. They wanted to know what was going on and what we were learning as part of the research.”
This input showed All of Us how to make a program that people want to join—a program that gives something back.
Right now, participants can see the data they’ve shared and their survey answers. For some questions, they can see how other people have answered. In the future, people who give blood or saliva samples will be able to get back information about their DNA, like ancestry and risks for certain health conditions. Through this newsletter, our social media channels, local events, and other ways, we provide evidence-based health information that may be interesting and helpful to you.
As the program continues, more features and benefits will be added, which will create new opportunities for different types of research. Dr. Wilkins hopes that eventually participants will be able to suggest topics for researchers to consider.
“We as researchers will come up with many amazing ideas and projects to take on,” she says. “But I think we’ll have the greatest impact when we can actually answer questions that come from the people and communities who are participating.”
The All of Us Research Program is pleased to welcome Joshua Denny, M.D., M.S., in his new role as Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Denny has been an important member of the All of Us team since its beginning, leading the program’s Data and Research Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He will continue to work closely with Eric Dishman and Stephanie Devaney, Ph.D. Mr. Dishman and Dr. Devaney are now the program’s Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Operating Officer.
“All of Us offers the once-in-a-generation potential to radically accelerate our biomedical knowledge and improve health for everyone, worldwide,” Dr. Denny says. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
March is National Nutrition Month®. One of the easiest ways to start eating healthier is to keep an eye on portion size.
Over the last 20 years, the average size of food portions in the United States has become much, much bigger. The average bagel used to be 3 inches wide and 140 calories. Today, bagels are twice as large and have more than three times as many calories! A regular soda used to be 6.5 ounces. Today, it’s 20! And a box of popcorn went from 270 calories to a whopping 630.
This is a real problem for our health, because people usually eat as much as they’re served. Studies have shown that we will eat what’s put in front of us, even after we get full.
Fortunately, each of us can choose how much we want to eat—it just takes a little planning ahead. To avoid falling into the portion-size trap, try these tricks:
For more healthy eating tips, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/tools-resources/nutrition.htm.