Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital joins medical research program

People in the Big Rapids area have the opportunity to join the All of Us Research Program through Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital. This program is a long-term effort by medical researchers to advance individualized prevention, treatment and care for people of all backgrounds. (Courtesy photo)

BIG RAPIDS — People from around the Big Rapids area have the opportunity to join what medical officials hope will become a groundbreaking, long-term medical research program.

Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital began voluntary enrollment this week for the All of Us Research Program, which researchers expect will advance individualized prevention, treatment and care for people of all backgrounds. The program is open to people age 18 and older, regardless of health status.

“This is an opportunity for a wide variety of people to participate in this groundbreaking research,” said Bill Kerans, communications specialist with Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City hospitals. “We look at it as something that can have long-term benefits not only for people today, but for generations to come.”

Kerans explained the research program is part of a precision medicine initiative, which is an approach to medical care involving disease treatment and prevention that looks at each individual, rather than broad groups of people.

A press release from Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital explained this approach considers differences in people’s lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes, when diagnosing, treating and preventing disease.

The program, funded by National Institutes of Health, hopes to eventually enroll one million or more volunteers who are willing to share information about themselves over many years in order to serve as a national resource for thousands of health studies.

To participate in the program, people are asked to share personal health and lifestyle information through online surveys and electronic health records, which will be continually collected over the course of the program.

Participants also will be asked to provide blood and urine samples and to have basic physical measurements taken, such as height and weight, at a clinic from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays at the Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital. Upon completion of the basic requirements, each participant will receive a $25 Meijer gift card.

Kerans added the initial participation in the program will be at no cost to the individual enrolling; however, after this first screening a person’s necessary medical procedures will not be paid for by the program.

A participant is asked to continue sharing their medical records with the program throughout the duration.

Kerans said there will be rigorous privacy protocols in place in order to protect participants’ sensitive medical information.

These protocols include removing a participants’ personal information, such as name and address, from the data, and then sending the data to a secure, cloud-based database managed by the All of Us Data Research Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. All blood and urine samples will be stored in a specialized facility at the Mayo Clinic.

“We encourage area residents to join this research program,” said Mary Kay Vandriel, president of Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals in a press release. “It gives participants an unparalleled opportunity to contribute to groundbreaking research to advance how we prevent and treat diseases. They will help researchers better understand differences in our population and tailor health care more effectively to each individual.”

To enroll in the research program, visit spectrumhealth.org/allofus or call (1-833) 564-6255.

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