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A study conducted with Fitbit as part of a federal research program will be the first large-scale attempt to harness health data generated by consumer wearables.
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) All of Us initiative – unveiled in 2015 by President Obama as the Precision Medicine Initiative – is purchasing as many as 10,000 Fitbit devices for study participants. That’s a small percentage of the 1 million or more participants NIH eventually hopes to enroll in the All of Us program, but the anonymous health data gathered during the study nonetheless should help researchers understand how lifestyle, environment and biological variables can impact health and disease.
Among the activities the Fitbits will be able to monitor and measure are physical movement, heart rate, and sleep, all of which can be analyzed in the context of overall physical health and critical outcomes.
The study is being conducted by The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) through a funding award from NIH. The Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) leads The Participant Center, which is responsible for enrolling and engaging diverse populations across the country.
STSI will provide up to 10,000 Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Alta HR devices to a representative sample of All of Us volunteers for the one-year study. Following the study, researchers will provide recommendations on how the devices could be more broadly incorporated into the All of Us research program.
“Most of what researchers know is based on intermittent snapshots of health in an artificial setting or based on personal recall,” Steven Steinhubl, MD, cardiologist and director of Digital Medicine at STSI, said in a statement. “Through this research program, we’ll have access to comprehensive activity, heart rate and sleep data that may help us better understand the relationship between lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes and what that means for patients on an individualized basis.”