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The pandemic has brought into immediate focus our individual and collective health, tasking us to find answers to an essential question: how do we more effectively care for ourselves and each other in this rapidly changing public health landscape? And how do we positively transform medical care for the long-term?
As part of a constellation of forces working toward better, more equitable healthcare in the US, the All of Us Research Program aims to answer these questions in partnership with…well, everyone. All of Us is a national effort run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create the largest, most diverse database of health information of its kind over a period of at least 10 years. Researchers can use this data to study health and illness so that ways of diagnosing, preventing, and treating health conditions can lead to improved health for generations to come.
At the local level, this national program is community-informed, relying on guidance from and collaborations with local leaders, organizations, and community members. These relationships ensure that the program is responsive, builds trust, and treats all involved as partners.
Emerging from a year-and-a-half-long pause due to COVID-19, UW-Madison’s Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee, led by director Gina Green-Harris, relaunched its enrollment efforts the week of September 13th. (You can view the relaunch week’s Hour of Power series on the All of Us MKE Facebook page.) In re-entering the community, the Center is set to expand on its commitment to Asset Based Community Development, an approach that honors the strengths and assets of communities in Milwaukee, from businesses and schools to church organizations and the talents and skills of individual community members. In addition, a Community Advisory Board made up of local leaders and neighborhood champions provides guidance and access to networks and vital resources to help the Center realize the values of the program. “Our Community Advisory Board or CAB, as we call it, serves as the conscience of the All of Us UW team in Milwaukee,” Gina Green-Harris affirms. “Their knowledge of All of Us and the underserved communities in which they live and work ensures that we meet people where they are and honor their perspectives, experiences, and contributions to greater health equity.”
As the name implies, the All of Us Research Program seeks to enroll anyone who is an eligible adult (18 and older) and interested in joining. Studying data from a diverse group of people can help researchers learn more about what makes people sick or keeps them healthy because where we live, how we live, and our background can all affect our health. In the past, health research left out or even maligned many different groups of people, which has resulted in researchers knowing less about their health. The Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships’ All of Us site welcomes all prospective enrollees but has a special mission to educate, enroll, and empower underrepresented communities of color to be part of health research. Assistant Director for the UW All of Us team in Milwaukee, Dr. Bashir Easter, charts the path ahead for All of Us and its community partners in Milwaukee: “We first need to collectively invest time and resources in improving health literacy in our city, and then from this foundation, we plan to be part of empowering our neighbors to be advocates for their health and to have a significant role in the medical research that is made possible by the data the All of Us Research Program collects.”
UW-Madison’s All of Us site at the Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships is joined in Milwaukee by the Medical College of Wisconsin. Both sites operate as members of the Wisconsin Consortium, which also includes Gundersen Health System, the Marshfield Clinic, and sites overseen by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wisconsin was the ninth state to join the All of the Us Research Program in spring of 2018.
To enroll, go to JoinAllofUs.org or download the blue All of Us app.
Please also feel welcome to call our office at 414-219-3810 – option #1 to share your questions or to schedule your enrollment.
Partnership with All of Us extends beyond initial enrollment in the program, so be sure to follow us on our Facebook page and on Twitter @AllofUsMKE.