By Nyesha Stone
Historically, minorities have been left out of research because the “average individual” is seen to be a white male, even though we all know the world is more diverse than that. During Barack Obama’s presidency in his 2015 State of Union address, he launched the Precision Medicine Initiative.
Most medicine, is tailored to be a one-size-fits all approach, according to the White House Obama archives, but precision medicine focuses on an individual’s differences such as a person’s genes, environment, and lifestyle.
“It gives medical professionals the resources they need to target the specific treatments of the illnesses we encounter, further develops our scientific and medical research, and keeps our families healthier,” the website stated.
The initiative is now a research program, titled All of Us, at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH). Its goal is to advance research into precision medicine across the nation.
The All of Us Research Program is an effort to gather data from at least one million people living in the country to improve health and speed up the research process by looking at the differences in lifestyles among people.
Almost two years ago, three Wisconsin based medical and scientific organizations: Marshfield Clinic, Research Institute, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Medical College of Wisconsin were collectively awarded $5,360,832 to help implement in Wisconsin the NIH All of Us Research Program.
Just recently, the All of Us Journey Bus stopped in several parts of Milwaukee to engage with the community. It showcased what it has been working on these last couple of years, where it is heading in the future and how it involves the community, specifically the diverse communities.
NIH partnered with The National Baptist Convention, USA, INC. to bring the Journey Bus to different parts of the country. A branch of the Baptist Convention is in Wisconsin: General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin, Inc., which hosted the stops in Milwaukee.
Reverend Dr. Garry Levy, president of General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin, said this partnership is the church’s way of saying “we have a love for our community” by making sure the forgotten and misused communities are there in the equation right at the beginning.
“Our Black community feels we are left behind on everything,” said Levy. He said this partnership is for the betterment of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
Dr. Zeno Franco, the lead of the All of Us Research Program’s efforts for the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network, said Milwaukee is a complex city that could benefit from precision medicine.
He said the things we go through, such as trauma, can physically change our genes. Lead exposure is another issue Milwaukee’s Black and brown communities face and it can also change our genes. By focusing on an individual’s environment and lifestyle, a doctor can create individualized medication to fit that person.
As a Mexican-American, Franco said he understands how it important is for us to be at the table before the research begins. Franco said the bus is one of many ways in which the program can engage with the community.
“All research is a little scary, but if we’re not in the data [then] we’re not represented,” said Franco.
To find out more about All of Us Research Program, visit https://www.froedtert.com/research/all-of-us.