If you understood your health risks, would you make better choices? Renown Health President and CEO Tony Slonim, M.D., DrPH, explains more as the Healthy Nevada Project prepares to reach 50,000 residents.
In September 2016, Renown Health and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) launched the Healthy Nevada Project and showed the world that Nevadans are overwhelmingly interested in learning more about their health and genetic makeup. Our pilot study offered genetic testing to community members and put Nevada in the national spotlight when 10,000 people signed up in just 48 hours.
While study participants received dozens of genetic reports for their own use, we believe the insights to be gleaned from the data could offer tremendous long-term benefits for health outcomes, wellness, education and research for all Nevadans. Renown and DRI are committed to help propel Nevada into the top quartile nationally for positive health outcomes, instead of our state’s historical performance near the bottom.
The Healthy Nevada Project has already proved people are excited to know more about themselves, and they want to contribute to research that could improve health outcomes for every Nevadan. Participants in the pilot phase of the study range in age from 18-90 years old and represent 135 zip codes across northern Nevada. Socioeconomic survey information was also collected during the pilot phase using an advanced, confidential online survey tool. Research teams are working diligently to generate our first peer-reviewed scientific results after gaining valuable community and population health insights from study data.
Renown and DRI spent the last 15 months evolving and growing our capabilities to lead an even larger and more complex research study of significance for our state. We jointly formed the not-for-profit Renown Institute for Health Innovation to focus on understanding Nevada’s unique environmental, socioeconomic, behavioral and genetic components that cause sickness and disease across our communities. We collaborated with the High Fives Foundation to recruit 250 athletes with life-altering injuries to discover keys to better treatment and success in survivorship. We’ve continued to pursue funding and partners that will allow us to have greater impact on health outcomes.
From the beginning, our focus with the Healthy Nevada Project has been to deliver personalized health data to our communities that will ultimately drive positive change for our state. We aspire to offer genetic testing to every Nevadan who is interested in learning about their health and genetic profile. We also strive to offer study participants deeper, more actionable insights into their DNA data so they can use this information to live healthier lives, manage their health risks and make meaningful changes for better health outcomes.
Now, we take another significant step toward this vision by partnering with personal genomics company Helix for the next phase of our study. California-based Helix has the largest clinically certified DNA sequencing facility in the world, which will allow us to expand our testing complexity and offer even more detailed insights for study participants. Their Helix.com App store model will enable the Healthy Nevada Project to work with other research groups and industry-leading companies that are at the forefront of using genetics to drive better health outcomes.
Going further, with the support of the Renown Health board of directors and community donors, we are preparing to substantially expand the Healthy Nevada Project this spring with 40,000 additional test slots already funded for phase two of our study.
Our state is at the forefront of a healthcare revolution by providing genetic testing at the level of the population and engaging people in conversations about their own health and health risks. Genetic testing is fast becoming an important tool in healthcare for both diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer. It can also be used as a tool to gauge risk for certain diseases such as heart disease and will eventually be used to determine best treatment practices for many other illnesses.
We are grateful for the support of our community partners and the interest of study participants. We look forward to sharing more details in the weeks ahead and encourage you to follow our progress at HealthyNV.org.
Dr. Anthony Slonim is an innovator and proven leader in healthcare on both the regional and national levels. During his notable career at major healthcare organizations and academic institutions, Dr. Slonim has developed a national profile as an expert in patient safety, accountable care, healthcare quality and innovative care delivery models focused on improving health within the community. For more Healthy Perspectives, follow Dr. Slonim on Twitter.