Minority Health Month concluded in April, however our efforts to address the health inequities experienced by minoritized communities continues year-round. Let me share with you some of the research projects taking place in the UCLA department of medicine (DoM) focused on improving our understanding of the development and treatment of illness within communities that are traditionally underrepresented in biomedical research.

UCLA is a national site participating in the NIH-funded All of Us Research Program which seeks to build one of the most diverse health databases in the country. This longitudinal cohort study seeks to follow the health journey of diverse patient populations, studying their health profile and medical conditions. The study aims to recruit 1 million participants to contribute data from their electronic health record, biospecimens, and surveys. It considers underrepresented in biomedical research across diversity categories that include ancestry, sexual orientation, income, level of education, access to health care, geography, and disability. The lack of health data from underrepresented communities has posed great challenges in determining the best care and treatment options for many. With this new database, the information collected will provide researchers from across the globe access to biological, environmental, and behavioral data that will increase our ability to answer many pressing research questions.

I am pleased to share that the primary investigator leading this project at UCLA is Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, executive vice chair in the DoM for the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. As part of the All of US Research Program, she is leading the first ancillary study under All of Us, titled “Nutrition for Precision Health” which will explore how different diets impact individuals, with a focus on studying participants that are underrepresented in biomedical research. Her study will include two groups: one group will consume an American diet over a 14-day period, the second group will live in a controlled environment and consume a Mediterranean/ DASH diet over the course of three 14-day periods. The goal of the study is to learn how people respond to diets and seeks to identify people who are at risk for developing metabolic disease at early time points. Researchers were recently visited by the NIH in preparation for the launch of their study in May.

“This is the first study of its kind; the intention is to include everyone and not a specific segment of the population that meets a certain criteria. We are truly trying to study everyone so that we can learn what makes individuals likely to develop illness or disease,” states Dr. Li.

This project is a collaborative effort with the American Heart Association and includes UCLA Department of Medicine faculty members Mopelola Adeyemo, MD, MPH from the division of Clinical Nutrition, and Arleen Brown, MD, PhD, and Alejandra Casillas, MD, MSHS from the division of general internal medicine and health services research.

This story was adapted from "Reflections from the Chair", a news segment shared by the chair of the Department of Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Dale Abel.

CTSI congratulates Drs. Brown and Casillas on their new roles with All of Us. Dr. Brown is also a co-director for UCLA CTSI, and Dr. Casillas supports the Workforce Development Program and the Community Engagement and Research Program.

Image caption: All of Us Research Program participants

Image source: NIH