Renown Health announced an innovative collaboration with the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and 23andMe, a leading personal genetics company. As a result, 10,000 northern Nevada residents will have the ability to take a free DNA test and the results will combine population data and personal history for something that could change the way healthcare is delivered in the state.
The groundbreaking study initially opened to 5,000 participants and filled within 24 hours. Due to the overwhelming interest, the study was doubled to accommodate 10,000 participants.
“This is population health at its best,” says Anthony Slonim, MD, DrPH, Renown Health president and CEO. “We honestly didn’t know how long it would take to enroll 5,000 people because this has never been done before.”
One of those first residents to complete the simple DNA saliva test was a prominent one: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
“Nevada’s greatest resource is, and always has been, our people,” Sandoval says. “Renown’s forward-thinking approach to community healthcare, combined with DRI’s data and environmental expertise, will create incredible potential for new scientific discoveries and encourage citizens just like myself to take a proactive role in self-care and ultimately change the way we think about our health moving forward.”
Slonim puts his thoughts in the form of a question: Which is more important: nature or nurture?
“Clearly, both are important,” Dr. Slonim says. “And, by combining Renown’s de-identified health data, such as 300,000 health histories that are five years or longer and patient population demographics, with other determinants, like social and environmental, we can begin to better understand the health and healthcare needs of the people and communities we serve.”
Here’s a look at what to expect:
First, participants make an appointment through Renown and will receive a confirmation email once their eligibility has been determined. At the appointment, they will be walked through the study details, sign off on appropriate study consent forms and receive the simple DNA kit to complete during the appointment. Long story short: You spit into a tube, which is registered with a barcode so the results come back to you.
Those results will be analyzed by one of 23andMe’s certified labs for DNA extraction and analysis. The labs also send the genetic info to Renown and DRI, where it is de-identified to ensure privacy. That genetic data from 23andMe will be used with health and population data from Renown, plus information from environmental databases. From there, DRI scientists will analyze and model public health risks ranging from disease and illness, to the effects of air quality on the health of Nevadans.
Those who participate will get an email from 23andMe in about six to eight weeks after the test. You can log onto their site and see what your DNA says about you. The report from 23andMe, called the Personal Genome Service, includes more than 65 personalized genetic reports on their health, traits and ancestry. 23andMe is the first and only direct-to-consumer genetics company to provide reports that meet FDA standards.
Plus, you are encouraged to share it with your doctor, friends and family. There may be a life-changing discovery ahead.
“We see this as an innovative approach to population health that will benefit Nevadans and could serve as a model for other states,” says Andy Page, president of 23andMe. “It’s exciting to have Renown and DRI, leaders in healthcare and research, come together for a comprehensive study of this scale.”
The Big Picture
So once all this data is out there, what’s the ultimate goal? Researchers hope to build an infrastructure to apply this program to all 2.8 million Nevada residents. Doing so could enable researchers to build predictive models and to look for significant population health factors across demographics such as gender, age, income and location.
This could allow for quicker diagnoses, encourage development of specific treatments for the community and could help predict who is at-risk for specific conditions.
Renown continues to build the healthcare network of the future by working with leaders both inside and outside of the healthcare industry. Please welcome our newest collaboration with DRI as we launch an innovative program with 23andMe to unlock a new model of healthcare in Nevada.