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Happy birthday to the All of Us Researcher Workbench! Researchers have been using All of Us data for a whole year. Right now more than 500 projects are underway! You can read the project descriptions here. With the data our participants generously provide and the work researchers are doing, we’re learning more about health every day. Thank you to All of Us participants for making this possible!
The Researcher Workbench is a one-stop shop for researchers who want to use All of Us data. It contains information from health records that participants have shared, such as their medical history and medicines. It also contains survey responses and physical measurements. The measurements include height, weight, heart rate, and more. Later this year, we’ll add genomic data to the Workbench.
The Workbench also has tools to help researchers use the data. For example, researchers can use the tools to select data that are relevant to their study. They can also use tools in the Workbench to analyze the data. And the Workbench includes FAQs and videos to help researchers find their way around.
“The fact that there is this interface—where there’s already a portal that has graphics and numbers and pictures and a help desk and FAQs—was really exciting,” says Joyce Ho, Ph.D. Dr. Ho is a research associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She also leads Northwestern’s local All of Us program.
Dr. Ho says that in her past work, she had to either collect her own data or bring her own statistical tools to use existing data. With the Workbench, the data has already been collected. The Workbench contains more data than a researcher would be able to gather alone. And having the tools and data together will make it easier for a variety of researchers to use them. “We want this Workbench to be usable for as many people as possible,” Dr. Ho says.
Right now, the Workbench is still in its beta phase. That means only researchers from certain organizations can apply to use the data. But in the future, we plan to open the Workbench to a much broader group of researchers, such as students, teachers, and citizen scientists. (Read about the steps we have in place to protect our participants’ privacy.)
Nyia Noel, M.D., M.P.H., looks forward to opening the Workbench to the broader group. “I think it will be really interesting to partner with citizen scientists,” she says.
For now, Dr. Noel is working on a couple of demonstration projects in the Workbench. Demonstration projects are one way we’re checking our data and tools. For example, one of Dr. Noel’s projects is looking at rates of high blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. She will compare the rate she finds with rates from previous studies. If the rates are similar, that’s a good sign. It suggests that when researchers use our data for new studies, they’ll get results that we can trust.
Dr. Noel is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine. “Across America, women of color and their babies consistently have worse health outcomes than their white peers,” she says. Working with pregnant women at a hospital, she sees those differences firsthand. That’s one reason Dr. Noel was excited to get involved with All of Us. She wanted to bring more people into research from groups that have been left out in the past. And she wanted to study how racial disparities affect people’s health. Racial disparities are differences in social, economic, and other conditions between different racial groups.
Dr. Noel notes that about 75% of the participants who have data in the Workbench are from groups that have been left out of research in the past. “This gives us an opportunity to conduct research in a much more representative way,” she says.
Visit the Researcher Workbench website to learn more about all it offers for researchers in our All of Us community.
More than 382,000 participants who have completed the consent process.
More than 279,000 participants fully enrolled.*
More than 500 research projects are using All of Us data.
*Fully enrolled participants are those who have shared their health information with All of Us, including giving blood and urine or saliva samples.
When the pandemic began, All of Us paused all in-person enrollment and other live events. We are just starting to open up again in places where it is safe. If your area hasn’t started in-person enrollment yet, you can still sign up and participate online at JoinAllofUs.org.
Photo credit to the Mayo Clinic.
Thousands of All of Us participants have given blood and urine samples. Maybe you are one of them! Last year, we told you how a sample goes from collection to storage at the Mayo Clinic Biobank.
But what is a biobank?
Stephen Thibodeau, Ph.D., oversees the biobank in Rochester, Minn. In his own words, he compares a biobank to a regular bank. It’s a physical place where you deposit something of value. At some point, you go to the bank and make withdrawals.
“At the All of Us biobank, our currency is blood and urine,” Dr. Thibodeau says. Just as a $100 deposit can be broken into smaller sums, your samples get processed into smaller portions.
In the biobank, automated machines divide blood samples into about 30 portions. Some portions hold blood cells, and some hold the liquid part of blood called serum or plasma.
Does this mean one person’s sample is only good for about 30 studies? No. Remember that $100? One portion might be enough for many studies or just a few.
“In keeping with the money analogy, sometimes it might cost pennies to do something. Sometimes it might cost $10,” says Dr. Thibodeau. “The type of study and the type of portion saved at the biobank determines the amount that’s being used.”
Dr. Thibodeau says thousands of studies can be done from one participant’s sample of DNA—only tiny amounts need to be withdrawn from the biobank for those. But other studies, like ones that look at serum, would need a much bigger withdrawal.
After dividing up the samples, a computer assigns a code for each portion. Then another automated system stores each portion in a really cold freezer at minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit. As a comparison, the cold weather record in the United States is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Alaska!
The samples can last a very long time once frozen. To ensure their long lives, the biobank has several systems to keep the samples safe and cold. For example, there are two different electrical connections to the building in case one goes out. The biobank also has a backup generator in case both connections drop.
And if all those fail? Liquid nitrogen keeps the samples cold. Nitrogen is a gas found in the air. Compressed into liquid, its temperature hovers around minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit. If disaster strikes and knocks out all power, the biobank will flood the freezers with liquid nitrogen.
Eventually, the All of Us biobank will be storing 30 million test tubes of samples (30 portions from each person). And All of Us values each one.
“The participants spend a lot of time volunteering for All of Us,” says Dr. Thibodeau. “As partners, we want them to know that we are making sure we take care of the samples they’ve shared with the program.”
Take a trip through the biobank in this video here.
The All of Us Research Program teams up with partners to let the public know about All of Us. Our partners help us engage people from different communities. One of our national partners is the Asian Health Coalition (AHC). AHC aims to improve health for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. Local AHC groups help people across the nation get involved with All of Us. That work has continued during the pandemic.
This May, All of Us and AHC are celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. On social media, we’re teaming up with AHC and friends to shine a light on AANHPI heroes. Check out the #AllofUsRecognizes hashtag to follow along! And on May 26, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, join AHC for a Twitter chat at @CAHE_AHC. This virtual chat will help AANHPI community members—and everyone else!—learn more about All of Us.
AHC condemns all violence toward Asian Americans—and celebrates Asian communities’ resilience and strength.
Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States live with a mental health condition. That might include you or someone you care about. The good news is that treatment can help. Seeking treatment is important, because mental health is a vital part of overall health. But how do you know when to seek mental health care? And what is it like?
When should I seek help?
Do you have low energy? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? Are you having trouble concentrating or sleeping? Have you noticed changes in your appetite or weight? Do you have feelings of guilt or helplessness? These are all possible signs and symptoms of a mental health condition. If you have symptoms that are starting to get in the way of your daily life, it’s a good time to reach out to your doctor or health care provider for help.
What does treatment look like?
There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for mental health conditions. You may need to try a few treatments to find what works best for you. Treatment usually includes talk therapy, medicine, or a combination of the two.
Talk therapy (also called psychotherapy)
In talk therapy, a trained mental health professional helps you identify and cope with troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior. You might meet with your provider by yourself. Or you might meet as part of a group. You may even be able to participate in talk therapy from the comfort of your own home. Many providers now offer therapy by phone or video.
Mental health professionals who offer talk therapy include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses. They might use different approaches depending on your needs. For example, a therapist might help you:
• Recognize and change harmful ways of thinking
• Find ways to cope with stress
• Learn relaxation and mindfulness techniques
• Understand how your emotions and your activities affect each other
The approach will depend on your condition, the therapist, and what works best for you.
Medicine can also play a role in mental health treatment. Some mental health professionals can help figure out the right medicine based on your needs.
Where do I start?
A good first step is talking to your primary care provider. They will evaluate your symptoms and help you figure out what to do next. You can also find treatment services in your area by searching the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator. Or check with local colleges, universities, and medical schools, which might have counseling resources. Learn more about how to find a provider with resources from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
May is Mental Health Awareness Month—a great time to learn more! Check out myths and facts about mental health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Remember: Mental health is an important part of overall health. If you have concerns, don’t wait to tell someone. Help is available. You can feel better. For tips on caring for your mental health, visit NIMH’s Caring for Your Mental Health page.
Update on All of Us Work with Tribal Leaders
All of Us works to partner with many different groups across the country—especially those that have been left out of research in the past. As part of that work, we met with American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribal leaders at meetings called “consultations.” These meetings helped us learn more about tribal leaders’ and community members’ views on research and about their needs from our program.
We’ve now put out a report about what we learned in those meetings. You can read a summary or the full report. To learn more, see our Information for American Indians and Alaska Natives webpage.