Thanks to the work of its partners, the National Institutes of Health is nearing its goal of enrolling at least 1 million people in one of the nation’s most colossal health data research programs of all time.

Among those partners are six of APHA’s affiliated state and regional public health associations, which have been working to spread the word about NIH’s All of Us Research Program.

Launched in 2018, All of Us aims to build one of the most diverse health databases in history. To date, nearly 800,000 people have enrolled in the program, contributing data from their electronic health records, DNA, wearable devices such as Fitbits, surveys and more. The program continually expands and refreshes the dataset as more participants share information. Researchers are using the robust data to learn more about how biology, lifestyle and environment affect health and disease.

In partnership with the Community and Provider Gateway Initiative, APHA is helping to lead grassroots engagement efforts around All of Us. As part of that work, APHA last year awarded a second round of grants to six Affiliates to promote the All of Us Research Program at their annual meetings, share information at their booths, give presentations at various conferences and introduce All of Us to public health practitioners in their states.Two men smile for the camera as they prepare a meal

Importantly, three of the six grantees are located in states considered to be “priority markets,” which means they have an opportunity to reach communities that have traditionally been underrepresented in biomedical research, said Lindsey Wahowiak, APHA’s director of Affiliate Affairs.

“Our Affiliates are doing the on-the-ground work in these communities, cities and states,” Wahowiak told The Nation's Health. “So it was only a natural fit to have them do some of the outreach and the leadership to build public health awareness, understanding and participation in the All of Us program.”

For Houston epidemiologist Catherine Cooksley, DrPH, CPH, the opportunity to promote the program was as much a natural fit as a passion.

“As an epidemiologist, I was enthralled at the prospect of a project aimed at increasing equity in the science of precision medicine in a country with such rich environmental and population diversity,” said Cooksley, a Texas Public Health Association past president.

A past chair of APHA’s Council of Affiliates, Cooksley has been working to promote the program since the Texas association received its first All of Us grant from APHA in 2021.

At that time, given the large size and diversity of Texas, TPHA leadership agreed that promoting the All of Us Research Program through the TPHA journal was the right thing to do for members and Texas communities, Cooksley told The Nation’s Health.

To that end, the April 2022 edition of the Texas Public Health Journal featured a special 25-page section dedicated to the All of Us Research Program. The link to the issue has remained on the Texas Affiliate’s website, Cooksley said. Visitors to the page are encouraged to become engaged in the All of Us Research Program through their constituents, patients and students.

Since receiving its second All of Us grant from APHA last year, TPHA representatives have set out to learn more about the ongoing All of Us efforts in Texas, she said. As a partner of each of the major markets in Dallas, Houston and El Paso, TPHA representatives participate in scheduled Zoom meetings.

Promotional activities also include an All of Us exhibit at TPHA’s upcoming Annual Education Conference, which will include a special session dedicated to the program, with representatives from each of Texas’ major markets presenting summaries of their All of Us work.

In addition to the Texas Affiliate, APHA also awarded 2023-2024 All of Us grants to the Nevada Public Health Association, North Carolina Public Health Association, Ohio Public Health Association, Virginia Public Health Association and Wisconsin Public Health Association.

“There’s a definite need to raise awareness of the project and why it is so important,” said Ohio’s Cheryl Davis, RN, OPHA executive director.

To help spread the word, OPHA recently arranged for a member of the All of Us team to present at the Franklin County, Ohio, Equity Advisory Council. The council, established in 2020, includes 50 cross-sector organizations committed to advancing equity in the region. The Ohio association also hosted an All of Us booth at its Public Health Nursing Conference to raise awareness of the program and to seek volunteer participants, Davis told The Nation's Health.

For its part, the North Carolina Public Health Association shared information about All of Us at the Annual Communicable Disease Conference in Raleigh in October. At the Affiliate’s All of Us booth, NCPHA Operations Officer Kim Dittman shared branded giveaways such as chip clips, masks, pens and notepads and fielded dozens of questions about how to register.

“When you read what it’s all about, you want to help,” Dittman told The Nation's Health. “It’s research for the health of our country, and it’s important to promote it.”

The Nevada Public Health Association jumped on the APHA All of Us grant opportunity in part because the state is rapidly becoming one of the most diverse ones in the country, said John Packham, PhD, policy director for the Nevada Affiliate.

“Most people don’t know that about 30% of the population of Southern Nevada identifies as Hispanic,” Packham told The Nation's Health. “Addressing disparities is core to our advocacy priorities and mission, so there was a fit there.”

Packham said efforts are underway to make sure All of Us is on the radar of researchers at both schools of public health and schools of medicine. In addition, All of Us will be promoted at NPHA’s annual conference, and the association is putting together a list of opportunities around the state for additional promotion and outreach.

Learn how to be a participant in All of Us.

Photo by FG Trade Latin, courtesy iStockphoto