Partnership highlight: NRHA continues to expand its work with All of Us Research Program

  • Author: Lea Mann
Partnership highlight: NRHA continues to expand its work with All of Us Research Program
Partnership highlight: NRHA continues to expand its work with All of Us Research Program

Since 2018, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has been a proud partner of the National Institute of Health’s All of Us Research Program. From the beginning, NRHA has been an affiliate of the Community and Provider Gateway Initiative, a cross-section of grassroots organizations helping to build program infrastructure, raise awareness about the value of participation, and drive enrollment in populations historically underrepresented in biomedical research, including rural.

All of Us is a historic precision medicine research project aimed at accelerating health research. The program is inviting one million or more individuals living in the United States to help build one of the most diverse health databases in history. Initially setting out to have 75 percent of participants identify as being part of a historically underrepresented community in biomedical research (UBR), All of Us has presently exceeded that goal with greater than 80 percent of data from UBR populations, and greater than 50 percent representing racial or ethnic minority populations.

Now in the fourth grant cycle, NRHA is working with six sub-awardees including Arizona Rural Health Association, California State Rural Health Association, Colorado Rural Health Center, Louisiana Rural Health Association, Maryland Rural Health Association, and Mississippi Rural Health Association. With these partners, we are reaching deep into rural communities across the United States to encourage them to shape the future of health research.

NRHA and our partners believe this work arms researchers with the diverse data needed to better understand differences in community health and develop individualized treatment programs to address health disparities and inequities. Engaging rural communities means giving them a seat at the table when health care procedures and policies are made because their health data has been included in research studies informing these decisions.

 
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NRHA’s partners are equally committed to the All of Us Research Program. “The Colorado Rural Health Center got involved with the All of Us Program because we believe in the mission,” says Matt Enquist, Colorado Rural Health Center associate director for outreach. “Diverse representation in health research is important to us. We believe that rural involvement in the movement towards equity is crucial in order for medicine to truly work for every American.”

“Chronic disease and other serious illness is far too common in our rural communities. With the work of the All of Us Research Program, we hope to be able to better identify the personal and environmental causes of these diseases and better understand how to address them,” adds Ryan Kelly, Mississippi Rural Health Association executive director.

Important work we’ve already done
From the beginning of our work with the All of Us Research Program, NRHA has focused on connecting our members and stakeholders, ensuring rural researchers’ voices were represented. We have also included our state rural health associations (SRHA) in as many education and engagement opportunities as possible. In 2018, this included SRHA booths at health fairs hosted by All of Us partners. Later this involved SRHAs sharing social media and newsletter messages directly with stakeholders and two SRHAs hosting the All of Us Journey mobile education unit in rural communities. It has also included All of Us sessions and exhibits and NRHA events like our Health Equity Conference and a rural community health worker training.
 
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In May 2022, NRHA welcomed All of Us Research Program’s Chief Engagement Officer Dr. Karriem Watson as the Terry Reilly keynote speaker for our 45th Annual Rural Health Conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Dr. Watson engaged rural health leaders and providers on the program’s commitment to including rural and why we need to work together to increase rural enrollment. Watch for an NRHA follow-up interview with Dr. Watson next year in our Rural Horizons magazine.

This year alone, NRHA and our partners have exhibited on behalf of the All of Us Research Program at Colorado Rural Health Center’s Annual Forum in April, NRHA’s Annual Rural Health Conference in May, University of Arizona’s Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference in June, Maryland Rural Health Association’s Annual Conference in October, and Mississippi Rural Health Association’s Annual Conference in November. Each of these exhibit booths have helped drive engagement and spread awareness, but they are only a launching pad. NRHA and our sub-awardees are committed to innovating our community engagement strategies and driving rural participation.

Looking ahead
NRHA looks forward to expanding our work with the All of Us Research Program. In this work, we are looking to reach diverse communities within rural America and a wide array of professionals in the rural health care field.

In 2023, NRHA will host focused education and engagement activities with rural community health workers (CHW) and researchers. In the new year, NRHA’s All of Us Research Ambassador Dr. Kevin Bennett will be hosting a webinar on the importance of the All of Us Research Workbench and rural researcher engagement. Additionally, NRHA has contracted with a certified community health worker trainer to create and administer an All of Us-centered CHW training curriculum. We hope to bring into the fold trusted members of the community to amplify the message and importance of the All of Us Research Program.

To learn more about the All of Us Research Program, visit the All of Us website or email AllofUs@RuralHealth.US to find out how you can get involved.