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This year had an unsettling start. But each new day is an opportunity to take steps toward a better future. The All of Us Research Program hopes that you and your family are safe and well.
All kinds of things can affect your health—including where you live. The All of Us Research Program wants to gather information that will help make discoveries to improve health for everyone. That’s why we make sure to include people from different backgrounds. That means different ages, different ancestries, and different genders. And it means people who live in different places.
People who live in rural areas may have different health issues from people who live in cities or suburbs. They are more likely to have certain health problems, such as high blood pressure. They may have a harder time getting health care—for one thing, they may have to travel a long distance to reach a doctor’s office or hospital. They are also less likely to have health insurance. According to the National Rural Health Association (NHRA), more than 57 million rural residents have limited access to high-quality health care.
“Some health problems are specific to rural communities—like farm accidents or farmer’s lung,” says Scott Hebbring, Ph.D. But rural residents have a lower risk of some other health problems. For example, research has found that kids who grow up on farms are less likely to have asthma and hay fever. They are also less likely to have infections in their lungs and airways. Learning more about this could help researchers find ways to prevent these health problems.
Dr. Hebbring is a research scientist at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Marshfield, Wisconsin, which serves rural communities. He also co-leads the All of Us team in Wisconsin and at Marshfield Clinic. “To understand a disease, you want to understand what causes or influences it,” he says. “That’s the whole purpose of All of Us—to understand how the environment, our lifestyle, our genetics, our preferences, and our cultures can influence our health and risk for diseases.”
Including rural residents in research is essential for better understanding their health. But people in rural areas have sometimes been left out of research.
All of Us is trying to change that. The first step is getting the word out to rural residents. All of Us and our partners use a variety of methods to let people know about the program. We’re partnering with NRHA and sites like the Marshfield Clinic. And we’re listening to rural residents to make sure we understand what’s important to them.
One concern is that people in rural areas are less likely to have high-speed Internet access. That can make it harder for them to do some All of Us activities from home. But local All of Us sites are keeping track of people who might need some help to participate. When it’s safe to meet in person, staff will invite them to come to the clinic to complete the sign-up process or take surveys.
All of Us is proud to have participants from all over the United States. So far, we have more than 25,000 participants in rural areas. We are grateful for their participation. The information that they provide will help us better understand what affects their health. And we hope that will help researchers learn more about how to improve health.
It’s that time of year again: time to think about what we might want to do differently in the new year. Resolutions can be hard to keep if they are too vague: I will exercise more! I will stop smoking!
Maybe instead of resolutions, we can try New Year’s goals. Goals are specific things that you can achieve. And you can measure your success to stay on track.
Instead of I will exercise more, try I will run three times a week or hike with my dog every Sunday or subscribe to and follow an online fitness program.
Besides the new year, each January brings us Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a national holiday but also a national day of service. MLK Day is a day to volunteer to improve our communities. MLK Day was January 18, but we can keep that focus on service going throughout the year. And helping others is one way to keep our spirits up.
Need ideas for safe activities? You can call your local schools to see if they need tutors. You can provide friendly customer service for a community-based organization, like the Red Cross. You can help food banks make food deliveries. You can share your skills, such as writing or animation.
Happy New Year from All of Us. We hope you stay healthy and have a great 2021!
The All of Us community mourns the passing of Shawn D. Smith Jr. Shawn was a participant ambassador for All of Us. He joined the program to share his passion for research with his friends, family, and Pittsburgh community. Shawn was also a mental health advocate. He worked to help others find the positive in their life challenges. A singer and songwriter, Shawn used song to share his journey with a spinal cord injury. He will be missed and remembered by the University of Pittsburgh and national All of Us teams.
February COPE Survey
The next and final COVID-19 Participant Experience (COPE) Survey is coming soon! This survey is your chance to help researchers learn how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your health, well-being, and daily life. Participants have been taking this survey since it started in May 2020. We hope you’ll take the survey one last time. The survey should take you about 10 minutes to complete. Your responses will let us know how experiences have changed over time.
Look out for a message about the February survey. This time, you’ll be able to click a link to take the survey without logging into your account. Thank you for your participation!