Every year around this time, I think about my health. Yes, it’s the holidays and everything is festive and bright, but it’s also the season when I typically schedule my annual health visits. And, to be honest, the news from these visits hasn’t always been something to celebrate. I’ve learned that health – and conversely ill-health – are deeply personal attributes, uniquely different for each and every one of us. I’ve found, too, that my family health history can influence everything from the health screenings my doctor orders to the diseases or conditions I’m susceptible to, as well as the preventive health measures recommended to me.
Where I live can also influence my health. I’m happy to say I’ve moved in the past year from a home next to a cherry orchard that, while beautiful, was sprayed each spring with toxic chemicals, (as evidenced by the farm hands’ haz-mat suits). I fear I may have yet to feel the full health effects of that annual exposure.
Lifestyle is the other part of my health triad – determined by the choices I’ve made and continue to make daily. Did hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in my 20’s do a number on my knees which vexes me more each day as I grow older? Does my periodic “healthful eating plan,” which I use to manage my yo-yo-ing weight, support or conversely hinder my overall health? I could go into a lot more detail about my past choices, or the ones I make today, from riding my stationary bike each morning to savoring a glass of good red wine on the weekend, but let that suffice.
When all is said and done, my family health history – my DNA, environment and daily lifestyle choices all contribute to my health or ill-health. For each of us, the combination of these attributes uniquely influences our health and well-being. And science is paying attention.
The National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Project, officially launched last May, is a longitudinal study to safely and securely gather one million or more participants’ data on their biology, environment and lifestyle. With personal identities removed, the All of Us Research Project will make this “de-identified” data available to ethical researchers, with the goal of advancing scientific discoveries to improve medical diagnosis, treatment and preventive care for all of us. It’s an ambitious project, but it gives me hope for a better future – one with healthcare that is as unique as each one of us.
For more information on the All of Us Research Program, please visit: Joinallofus.org
For information on how we can support your library’s participation in All of Us, visit the NNLM’s Community Engagement Network web page.