Over three million people have been invited to join Our Future Health, which is set to become the UK’s largest ever health research programme.
Letters are being sent out this autumn inviting members of the public to join Our Future Health, designed to help develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat diseases.
Eventually, up to five million people will have the opportunity to join Our Future Health over the next few years, with the programme open to all UK adults.
By analysing health data and blood samples from millions of volunteers who join the programme, researchers could unlock new ways to detect diseases earlier so they can be treated more easily. They can also more accurately predict who is at higher risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia and stroke.
The study provides an opportunity to explore the potential uses of genetic risk scores in health care, and how they may improve screening programmes, diagnostic tests for earlier detection and targeted treatments. Volunteers will also have the option to take part in cutting-edge research studies in the future.
Volunteers to receive feedback about disease risk
A recent survey of over 2,700 UK adults commissioned by the programme found that 75% of people agreed that taking part in Our Future Health could lead to better medical treatments and 78% agreed that taking part could lead to better ways to detect diseases early.
Volunteers joining the research programme will be given the option in the future to receive feedback about their health, including their risk of common diseases, based on their health data and analysis of their DNA.
The survey found that almost 80% of people would be interested in receiving feedback about their risk of preventable health conditions based on their genetics.
Dr Raghib Ali OBE, Chief Medical Officer of Our Future Health, said: “Today, millions of people spend many years of their life in poor health and too often we are only able treat diseases when our patients start showing symptoms. Volunteering to join Our Future Health is an opportunity to change that. With the help of up to five million people, we’ll be able to dramatically improve our understanding of how to detect and prevent diseases so in the future everyone can live in good health for longer.”
Efforts to include a diverse range of people
Some people have previously been under-represented in health research, including people from Black, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds as well as people with lower incomes. The Our Future Health programme is aiming for five million volunteers who truly reflect the UK population. By ensuring that a diverse range of people take part, it aims to enable discoveries that can be made that benefit everyone.
Head of Research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, Dr Chris MacDonald, said: “Information collected through this exciting initiative will provide valuable insight into the health of the nation over time, enabling us to learn more about a wide range of diseases, including pancreatic cancer, and study the signals present in blood samples even many years before diagnosis.
“This is particularly exciting for us as pancreatic cancer is frequently detected too late for treatment, with over 80% of people diagnosed in the late stages. The insights gained through Our Future Health will be invaluable and will doubtless help to improve early diagnosis and save lives.”
Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It aims to be the UK’s largest health research programme, bringing people together to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease.