Renown Health, a Reno-based health system, and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) are collaborating with DNA testing company 23andMe on a community-based population health study that will combine health, population and genetic information with environmental data.
Funded by the Renown Health Foundation and Nevada's Knowledge Fund, the pilot study will offer participants from the Nevada community the opportunity to volunteer for research and gain access to their individual genetic information at no cost. Participants will receive free 23andMe genetic tests.
23andMe's Genotyping Services for Research platform will enable researchers to review genetic data and health-related survey responses from study participants. Combining genetic data with health and population data from Renown, as well as information from environmental databases, DRI scientists will analyze and model public health risks ranging from disease and illness, to the effects of air quality on the health of Nevadans.
The Knowledge Fund is part of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Renown Health is an integrated healthcare network serving a 17-county region and comprised of three acute care hospitals, a rehabilitation hospital, a comprehensive medical group and an urgent care network.
“This collaboration addresses one of the fundamental tensions in medicine—which is more important, nature or nurture?" Anthony Slonim, M.D., DrPH, Renown Health president and CEO, said in a statement. "Clearly, both are important and by combining Renown's de-identified health data, such as 300,000 health histories that are five years or longer and patient population demographics, with other determinants, like social and environment, we can begin to better understand the health and healthcare needs of the people and communities we serve."
The study is open to the first 5,000 northern Nevada residents that qualify.
Each participant will receive 23andMe's Personal Genome Service, including more than 65 personalized genetic reports on their health, traits and ancestry.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said in a prepared statement, “Renown's forward-thinking approach to community healthcare, combined with DRI's data and environmental expertise, will create incredible potential for new scientific discoveries and encourage citizens just like myself to take a proactive role in self-care and ultimately change the way we think about our health moving forward.”
According to an announcement about the pilot project, researchers hope to build an infrastructure to apply the population health pilot to all approximately 2.8 million Nevada residents as doing so could enable researchers to build predictive models and to look for significant population health factors across demographic variables (gender, age, income, location); and distinct population health strata that consider community health, individual health, and chronic disease variables, as well as their interactions.
“We will begin to understand how environmental factors can help predict who may be at risk, allow for quicker diagnoses, and encourage the development of more precise treatments,” Joseph Grzymski, Ph.D., AIC senior director and principal investigator of the study, said.
“That understanding, combined with the information we will deliver back to study participants, are the first steps toward a future where access to your personal health data will contribute to a higher overall quality of life for all Nevadans,” Grzymski said.