A national research group is in Billings this week to sign up volunteers to diversify medical research. The group wants a million people from a variety of backgrounds to participate.
The All of Us research program under the National Institute of Health opened their interactive trailer to the public outside the Rimrock Mall in Billings Tuesday. They’re collecting medical information from under-represented people, such as those who live in rural areas and ethnic minorities, in order to expand the scope of medical research.
Mel Lopez works with All of Us.
“We want to advance precision medicine so next time you go to the clinic, instead of you receiving the same treatment as everybody, it’s personalized to you as an individual,” says Lopez.
Precision medicine is an approach to disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual differences in genes, environment and lifestyle.
Lopez says that precision medicine is nothing new. However, a study conducted by the public polling group KRC Research found that 66 percent of Americans have never heard of either personalized medicine or precision medicine.
The same study also found that a majority of Americans liked the idea of precision medicine.
All of Us is collecting a wide range of information, like family medical history and overall health, from a diverse group of participants. The importance of having representation for minority groups in medical research is personal for Lopez.
“I’m a woman and I’m Hispanic. Women make up 51 percent of the population yet more studies have been done on males. And as a Hispanic, we represent 16 percent of the population but yet only one percent have ever been in medical research,” says Lopez.
21 percent of the participants in the All of Us program are Hispanic.
Their trailer features a virtual reality headset where people can experience what it’s like to use precision health products like prosthetics or glasses and places to sign up new participants. So far, they have over 200,000 volunteers, 20 of them from Montana.
The program will be in Billings until Friday. Their next stop will be Caras Park in Missoula from July 16th until the 19th.