Our Future Health, the UK’s largest health research programme, has recruited its first volunteers and aims to grow to five million in the next few years.
More than 3,000 volunteers have already agreed to participate in Our Future Health via partnerships with NHS Blood and Transplant and NIHR Bioresource.
The programme will use a variety of other recruitment methods including hospitals and mobile units to build what will be one of the largest and most diverse group of participants in British medical history.
The programme has nearly £79 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Accelerating Detection of Disease (ADD) challenge. Our Future Health will raise significant additional resources of around £160 million from life science companies and charities. This includes £100 million of private investment from the life sciences industry already agreed.
As well as contributing funding, industry partners will work collaboratively with Our Future Health, to develop new methods of prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases and health conditions.
A major focus will be identifying diseases such as cancer and heart disease before symptoms would normally be detectable.
The pilot phase of Our Future Health has also been endorsed by 16 health research charities including:
- Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration
- Alzheimer’s Research UK
- Alzheimer’s Society
- Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation
- Blood Cancer UK
- Breast Cancer Now
- British Heart Foundation
- Cancer Research UK
- Diabetes UK
- MS Society
- Pancreatic Cancer UK
- Parkinson’s UK
- Prostate Cancer UK
- Stroke Association
- Versus Arthritis.
Volunteers who decide to join Our Future Health will:
- provide their informed consent
- provide a blood sample
- complete a questionnaire
- allow secure access their health records.
Volunteers are also asked to give their permission for Our Future Health to contact them in the future to give them the opportunity to take part in follow-on research.
Researchers from academia and industry, and the NHS, will be able to apply to study Our Future Health resources to support approved research. Volunteers’ data will be de-identified and held securely, ensuring that Our Future Health resources are only used for health research in the public interest.
Dr Ian McKay, deputy challenge director for the Accelerating Detection of Disease challenge at UK Research and Innovation, said:
Recruiting participants that include those currently under-represented in research will be critical in understanding the reasons for health inequalities seen by minority groups. The recent experience with COVID-19 has brought into stark relief the way that illness affects some communities more than others.
Dr Andrew Roddam, CEO of Our Future Health said:
Millions of people in the UK and around the world spend many years of their later life in poor health. Our Future Health aims to tackle this and help people live healthier lives for longer, by creating the UK’s largest ever health research programme to prevent, detect and treat diseases.
By building a world-leading health research resource that truly reflects the UK population our goal is to develop a more detailed understanding of what makes some people more likely to develop certain health conditions, so more effective tests and treatments can be developed in the future.
Despite advances in healthcare, large numbers of people in the UK still spend many years of their later life in poor health. Our Future Health will help researchers tackle the growing burden of disease in the UK, helping to shift the burden of healthcare from treatment to prevention and ensuring that future generations can live healthier lives for longer.
Nearly six in 10 (59%) of those aged 65 or older in the UK have two or more of:
- coronary heart disease
- respiratory disease
- sight loss
This is projected to reach 70% by 2035. This accounts for just under half (47%) of the overall disease burden in the UK, rising to over 60% in people aged 75 and older. Over 70% of all deaths in the UK are due to these conditions.
Our Future Health will improve prevention and treatment and ultimately deliver better health outcomes by helping researchers to:
- develop new ways to detect disease at an earlier stage
- identify people who are at higher risk of disease.
There is a significant challenge in the UK, for example: 45% of cancers are detected at an advanced stage, 850,000 people have type two diabetes without knowing and around 5.5 million people in England have high blood pressure (hypertension) undiagnosed.
How can you take part?
Members of the public who are interested in taking part in Our Future Health from Spring 2022 can register for news and updates.
About Our Future Health
Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It will be the UK’s largest health research programme, bringing people together to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease. It is committed to the highest standards, polices and processes that protect participants’ confidentiality.
It is a member of the UK Health Data Research Alliance, the independent alliance of leading healthcare and research organisations establishing best practice for the ethical use of UK health data for research at scale.
Top image: Credit: JohnnyGreig, Getty Images