There are all kinds of people in the world, but not all of them are fairly represented within medical studies.
Because of this, health care for women and minorities might be tailored to someone other than themselves. As with trying to wear another person’s prescription glasses, this isn’t ideal, but the All of Us research program aims to change that, according to All of Us Tour Manager Mel Lopez.
The idea of All of Us is to gather medical information from underrepresented groups in the hopes of providing better medical care for everyone. The program is funded directly by the National Institute of Health.
Lopez was present when the All of Us project’s traveling exhibit opened Tuesday at Guion’s Showcase, where it will remain until Friday. The exhibit, which is on a tour bus in the parking lot, will also be downtown Saturday for Emporia’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Lopez herself is part of two groups underrepresented in medical studies — women and Hispanic people.
“Not enough studies have been done on either one,” she said.
Though women make up about 51 percent of the population, more medical studies have been done about men. Though Hispanic people make up about 16 percent of the country’s population, only 1 percent of medical research has focused on people of Hispanic origins.
“I want to improve the health for my future family,” she said. “My father just got diagnosed with diabetes and he had a stroke and he has heart disease. That only is going to repeat and it’s going to keep cycling, unless we can better either prevent, treat or just eliminate (diseases).”
Cancer, diabetes and heart disease all run in her family, so she feels it’s important to learn what she can about her genetics.
The best way to do this is through research — and not just on small subsets of the population.
The program doesn’t offer treatment or medication, but is focused on what Lopez called “precision medicine.”
“It’s personalized — customized — for each individual,” she said, using the prescription glasses comparison.
The display provides reading material, including a wall of facts and statistics.
In the tour bus, people can answer questions about their environment, their health and their genetics. They can see “where they stand,” measuring their height compared to others in their demographic.
“Only 50 percent of your height is determined by your genetics,” Lopez said.
One’s life and environment, she said, also plays a factor in determining someone’s full-grown height.
The program, according to Lopez, looks at factors such as lifestyle and environment.
The exhibit also includes a virtual reality station where people can explore a virtual version of the bus and learn about how others move through the world around them. According to Lopez, one program allows participants to learn how it feels to have a prosthetic arm. Those who don’t want to use the machine themselves but who are interested in this can watch videos of it on Youtube, she said.
Any United States resident age 18 or older with a valid mobile phone number or email address is invited to sign up for the program. Children must be accompanied by a guardian. Foreign exchange students are also welcome to take part.
People can sign up for the program in the All of Us mobile clinic or on a tablet in the tour bus, a process they can continue online at home. An app for the program is available for those who want to create accounts at home. Those who form accounts, after they’ve had their appointment with the All of Us nurse, can receive a $25 Amazon e-card, Lopez said, about a week or so after the examination.
Through the examination, All of Us will map out the blood genome, the information of which will be returned to participants. This process could take a while, according to Lopez. It could be months or a year before these results are returned. But it could help participants learn more about their ancestry and what diseases they’re predisposed to, she said.
“To me, that’s an amazing benefit,” Lopez said.
All of Us has been in operation for almost a year, she said, with the traveling exhibit starting back in September. The program has enrolled about 200,000 people all across the United States.
See joinallofus.org for more information.