The Our Future Health medical research programme has announced via its Facebook page that it has reached the milestone of having its one millionth volunteer sign up, since the programme started recruiting just over a year ago.
It eventually hopes to have five million volunteers on the scheme which is helping to create a detailed picture of the nation’s health.
Our Future Health is a collaboration between the general public, who are volunteering to join the programme, and charity and private sectors, who are funding the scheme, in order to build the UK’s largest health research programme.
It is building a database of vital health information which can help shape the future of our health. By collecting data from the volunteers, the programme is helping to discover and test more effective approaches to preventing, detecting and treating diseases, to help people live longer, healthier lives.
Volunteers on the programme give permission for any information and samples collected on the programme to be combined with existing information, including their health records. Researchers can then apply to study the collected information to support their research into human health and diseases.
Dr Raghib Ali, chief medical officer of Our Future Health and a consultant in acute medicine in Oxford, told the BBC: “Most of my patients come in with things like a heart attack, stroke or cancer, and we know these diseases have developed over many years.
“With Our Future Health we are trying to move our model of healthcare from the treatment of disease at a late stage when people have symptoms, to one where we identify those at high risk earlier, intervening and preventing those diseases in the first place.”
The programme is similar to the UK Biobank database, which began recruiting using NHS data back in 2007. That database of 500,000 people has proved to be hugely successful, with over 6,000 peer-reviewed papers published as a result of its research.
However, Our Future Health aims to be bigger. When it completes enrolment in 2028, it will be 10 times bigger than UK Biobank.
People interested in joining the Our Future Health programme can register online. The scheme is keen to attract a wide range of volunteers from diverse backgrounds to help limit the widening inequalities we see in healthcare today.