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San Ysidro Health Center To Enroll Patients In Nationwide Study

Doctors in San Diego are working to make sure low-income patients of color are included in a long-term nationwide study on genes, lifestyles and environments and how they affect our health.

The Obama Administration's Precision Medicine Initiative is a long-term nationwide study aiming to find out how people's health can be influenced by individual differences in their genetics, lifestyle and environment.

Doctors in San Diego are participating to make sure low-income patients of color are included in the research.

The project's goal is to track 1 million people over many years. Using approaches like gene sequencing and mobile health monitoring, researchers hope to determine how a person's health is influenced by their unique traits and surroundings.

The National Institutes of Health on Friday announced that six health centers across the country, including the San Ysidro Health Center, have been chosen to recruit patients from communities that have not always been well-represented in this kind of research.

"We always want to include the diversity of people that live in the United States," said Dr. Gregory Talavera, chief of research at the San Ysidro Health Center and a professor at San Diego State University.

Photo credit: Nic McVicker

Dr. Shaila Serpas and second-year medical resident Karen Law are pictured at the San Ysidro Health Center, July 27, 2015.

"Inclusion of lower income or disadvantaged populations is going to make sure the medicine and therapies are available to all individuals in the United States," he said.

Talavera says the center plans to enroll 50 to 100 patients in the study over the next year, with hopes to sign up more patients in the future. He and his colleagues are seeking up to $250,000 in NIH funding for the initial enrollment.

Talavera said patients served by the San Ysidro Health Center are less likely than their middle-class peers to have access to high-quality food and smartphones for mobile health monitoring. He said the everyday stress low-income people face can make it difficult to access health care and maintain treatment regimens.

"Their existence in this different environment is important to include in a study like this," Talavera said.

Other San Diego researchers are also playing a role in the Precision Medicine Initiative. On Wednesday, the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla announced nearly $120 million in federal funding to help oversee the study for the next five years.

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