'All Of Us' Visits Milwaukee Area, Encouraging Medical Research Enrollment

Aug 9, 2019

A traveling exhibit aiming to get people to sign up for a huge medical research program is making its way around the Milwaukee area. It’s an outreach initiative for the effort known as All of Us.

All of Us is a National Institutes of Health program that began during the Obama administration. It's trying to recruit 1 million people nationwide to allow a body measurement, blood pressure reading, and give blood and urine samples that can be privately analyzed to accelerate health research.

READ: In Return For Some DNA, Program Promises Medicine Eventually 'Tailored To You'

All of Us is connected to precision medicine, which aims to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease.

The All of Us Journey bus — actually a trailer — has been in Milwaukee since Wednesday. On Thursday, it was parked at the United Community Center on the near South Side. Inside the trailer, Tour Manager Steve Curran emphasized All of Us wants diversity in enrollment.

''Everyone is included. Doesn't matter from which economic background or ethnicity," Curran said.

All of Us On-Site Tour Manager Steve Curran inside the All of Us Journey trailer. The counter on the wall above him records the number of people nationwide who have visited the vehicle.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

One of the local partners for the program is the Medical College of Wisconsin. Associate professor Zeno Franco says going to predominantly African American and Latino neighborhoods this week is partly an attempt to reach people who may be at earlier risk of certain diseases.

"I think there's some key things around heart disease and diabetes that we know that the impacts are usually earlier in people's lives if they come from a minority community — regardless of whether that's African American or Hispanic. That's the reality. We're not sure why, and that's one of the things All of Us is trying to solve," Franco said.

He says another part of the message to the immigrant Latino community:  For anyone concerned about a friend or family member being deported, a Social Security number does not have to be given to All of Us, and registration is private.

READ: Research & Resources Needed For Latinos & African Americans Suffering From Alzheimer's

About 10 people began the registration process on Wednesday, reports All of Us. Harambee neighborhood resident Frieda Webb says she signed up, putting aside any concerns about privacy.

"Yeah, they're there, but [privacy concerns are] all over the place with social media now and the Internet. So, it's damned if you do, and damned if you don't," Webb said.

And Webb isn't deterred that it may take years for the All of Us sign-up to finish and for precision medicine to help more people.

"But we have children, and so, we want our children to benefit from this, OK? What can we learn? Can we work smarter? Can we think more holistically?" Webb added.

(From left) Zeno Franco and Gina Green-Harris outside the All of Us trailer.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

The All of Us trailer will alternate between the north and south sides of Milwaukee the next three days. The Milwaukee area director of UW-Madison's Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute, Gina Green-Harris, says no stops in the mostly white suburbs are planned.

“Our white community probably already knows this, and has the resources. We do not, by far, discriminate or exclude anyone. We want all of our communities to be present," Green-Harris said.

All of Us says nationally, it's more than one-fifth of the way to the goal of signing up 1 million people.

Milwaukee locations of the All of Us trailer

Aug. 9
1 p.m. - 7 p.m.
MLK Heritage Health Center
2555 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

Aug. 10
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
2701 S. Chase Ave. 

Aug. 11
1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
St. Ann Center - Bucyrus Campus
2450 W. North Ave. 

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

Do you have a question about innovation in Wisconsin that you'd like WUWM's Chuck Quirmbach to explore? Submit it below.

_