The National Institutes of Health recently announced a five-year grant to Cherokee Health Systems as part of a nationwide program to collect health data for research purposes. A total of $55 million in awards nationally in fiscal year 2016 will build a landmark longitudinal research effort that aims to engage 1 million or more U.S. participants. The research will improve health professionals’ ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics.
Known as the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program, this ambitious research projects will set the foundation for new ways of engaging people in research. PMI volunteers will be asked to contribute a wide range of health, environment and lifestyle information. They will also be invited to answer questions about their health history and status, share their genomic and other biological information through simple blood and urine tests, and grant access to their clinical data from electronic health records. In addition, mobile health devices and apps will provide lifestyle data and environmental exposures in real time.
The Precision Medicine Initiative was launched by President Barack Obama. It will also support a Data and Research Support Center, Participant Technologies Center and a network of Healthcare Provider Organizations (HPO). An award to the Mayo Clinic to build the biobank, another essential component, was announced earlier this year.
Cherokee Health Systems is one of only six Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) nationally to be named as part of the study group program. These centers and other Healthcare Provider Organizations will engage their patients to help build the research protocols and plans, enroll interested individuals, and collect essential health data and biological specimens. The participation of Cherokee and other FQHCs will help ensure that participants in the research represent the geographic, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of the country. FQHCs will be critical for bringing underserved individuals, families and communities into the participant study group, especially those historically underrepresented in biomedical research.