One million volunteers join UK’s largest health research program

One of the world’s largest studies on a nation’s health celebrates signing up its millionth volunteer, just over a year after it started recruiting.

Our Future Health, the UK’s largest ever health research program, has bagged its one millionth volunteer, meaning that in just over a year, it is already a fifth of the way towards its target of five million volunteers.

Longevity.Technology: With an impressive sign up rate of around 3,000 new volunteers joining every day, Our Future Health is creating a detailed picture of health in the UK by collecting and linking genetic and other health data for millions of people. This will enable researchers to find breakthroughs that help revolutionize the way we detect, treat and prevent disease, and the architects of the program hope it will transform healthcare around the world, leading to millions of people living longer and healthier lives.

This ambitious project is a collaboration between the public sector, life sciences companies and leading UK health charities including: Alzheimer’s Society, British Heart, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, Parkinson’s UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Royal Osteoporosis Society and Stroke Association.

Our Future Health has a particular focus on recruiting volunteers from ethnic minorities and more deprived communities as these have been under-represented in health research in the past. Because of its focus on diversity in recruitment, Our Future Health also now has the largest ever number of volunteers from more deprived backgrounds and ethnic minority groups of any UK health research programme.

Anyone over 18 can volunteer by signing up online. Volunteers are asked to complete an online health questionnaire and book a clinic appointment which are held in pharmacies and in mobile clinics all over the country. Volunteers give a blood sample, and some physical measurements are taken. They are also offered information about their own health, including their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and in the future they will be given the option to receive feedback about their risk of some diseases, and have the chance to take part in further research studies. 

Dr Raghib Ali, Chief Medical Officer of Our Future Health, said: “While the breakthroughs of the past were often due to the brilliance of individuals, the breakthroughs of the future will rely on a large group of people who are united by their collective determination to play their part in making positive change. Each one of those million volunteers is contributing to creating a world-leading resource that will lead to discoveries that will save lives.”

Ali added that while the program has made significant progress so far, there is still a long way to go.

“We need another 4 million volunteers before we can fully harness the potential for using health data to make lifesaving discoveries. I would urge everyone to consider signing up – it’s something positive you can do for your own health, and you will also be making a positive contribution to the future health of millions of people around the world.

“The relative lack of diversity in previous research has meant that those who are most likely to benefit from medical research are also the least likely to take part, further widening health inequalities. Our Future Health is committed to changing that by ensuring that the programme enables everyone to live longer, healthier lives, which is why it’s so important that people of all backgrounds take part.”

Interview with Sir John Bell for Longevity Technology
Professor Sir John Bell, Chair of Our Future Health

Professor Sir John Bell, Chair of Our Future Health, said: “When we started Our Future Health, we set out to create a health research programme on a scale never seen before anywhere in the world. Hitting one million volunteers over the last year is a truly remarkable achievement and means we’re now rapidly turning that ambition into reality.

“And with thousands more people joining every day, we can now be very confident Our Future Health will become the most powerful research tool we’ve ever had to tackle chronic diseases. It will enable discoveries that help us change our health system from one where we mostly treat people who are already sick, to one where we can do much more to stop people becoming sick in the first place.”

Volunteers who don’t live near a location where Our Future Health clinic appointments are currently available can join now and be notified when new clinic locations become available.