Changing the Health of Pennsylvania — and the Future

Group cutting the ribbon in front of the new All of Us center on Forbes Avenue

Steve Reis, principal investigator of the All of Us Pennsylvania research program, welcomed a small crowd to the opening of a new physical space in Oakland by talking about their blood pressure. 

In addition to his role as associate vice chancellor for clinical research, health sciences and the founding director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Reis is also a cardiologist. 

“If we all had high blood pressure and went to our provider, there’s a good chance we’d all come out with a prescription for the same medication,” Reis said. “But look around — we’re all different. So why are we all being treated the same way?”

The reason, he said, is simple: “There’s just not enough scientific information to treat us as individuals.”

Ease of enrollment

Interested in taking part?

The storefront on Forbes Avenue is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments can be arranged by calling 412-383-2737 or 800-664-0480.

Additional sites are located in Bethel Park, Monroeville, UPMC Montefiore Hospital, the Aikens Building in Shadyside, Altoona, and Temple University in Philadelphia. Visit the All of Us website for more details and for a current list of sites.

The All of Us Research Program, a National Institute of Health study, aims to change this by collecting health data from one million people nationwide. Pitt was the first institution to be approved for the study, with a goal to enroll 100,000 Pennsylvanians.

“This facility,” Reis said of the new location at 3616 Forbes Avenue, “is designed for easy enrollment of Pitt students, staff and faculty, as well as for people who live and work in Oakland.”

Those who visit the Forbes Avenue location to enroll will find the process takes about 30 minutes. After using an iPad to complete three online surveys, biosamples of urine and blood will be collected. They’ll also be weighed and have their height, hip and waist, heart rate and blood pressure measured. Participants will be asked for permission to allow the study to access their electronic medical records. Participants receive a $25 gift card at completion of their visit. 

Tiered access to data

Among the data the All of Us program will collect from participants will be information about their health, medical histories, lifestyle and even diet and sleep — all of which will be included in a secure database that scientists from across the country can access.

Different users will have different access levels to the data. Many, including the general public, will be able to view anonymized aggregate data without any patient-identifying information. Health care providers and researchers can get access to data like genetics and ancestry and environmental exposures to personalize health and wellness plans for patients.

Some data is already available via a research hub, noted Mylynda Massart, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and a co-investigator of All of Us Pennsylvania. At a recent neurotrauma conference, Massart looked up how many traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries were already in the registry.

“The great thing for faculty to know is that if they sign up on the research hub, they will be notified when new things are added to it,” said Massart. “Instead of sending data to researchers, investigators will come to the hub — which will include all the tools for analyzing the data.”

“We’ll be able to determine how we can individualize the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of just about every disease,” said Reis. “This can really change the future of medicine, and this study here at the University of Pittsburgh will change the health of Pennsylvania.”

Read more about the All of Us program in the University Times.