Landmark population health study involving 50,000 northern Nevadans turns to SAS to reveal hidden health insights

These are exciting times in health care. Earlier this week I read that the NIH will soon open enrollment for its “All of Us” initiative. The research program aims to compile the genetic and health data of one million Americans in order better understand the mechanisms of disease and customize care based on the individual – a field referred to as precision medicine.

The news immediately brought to mind the Healthy Nevada Project, a similar initiative that is examining genetic, clinical, environmental and socioeconomic data, in combination, to better understand the complex interplay between these factors and related effects on population health in Nevada. The effort is being led by Renown Institute for Health Innovation (Renown IHI), which selected SAS as the analytics engine behind the first-of-its-kind study.

The pilot phase of the Healthy Nevada Project launched in Sept. 2016, enrolling 10,000 Nevadans in just 48 hours, and within 60 working days, each participant donated a DNA sample for genotyping. The pilot phase concluded early this year, and in March, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced Renown IHI’s expansion of the project, opening enrollment to an additional 40,000 participants. The implications in the field of health care are staggering, but it is stories shared by study participants that really drive home what this new knowledge means for people like you and me – including personalized care and new diagnoses.

So what role does SAS play in this pioneering work? Researchers, doctors and data scientists from Renown IHI are using SAS analytics to develop a health determinants platform that researchers will use to analyze population health risks from patient variables such as gender, age, and personal or family health history. Researchers also will use the platform to model public health risks ranging from disease and illness to the effects of environmental factors such as air quality.

"We are working to understand how environmental factors can help predict who may be at risk, allow for quicker diagnoses, and encourage the development of more precise treatments," explained Jim Metcalf, chief data scientist at the Healthy Nevada Project. "The modern statistical and machine learning methods, along with the intuitive data visualizations, have been critical elements of our success to date."

To hear Metcalf talk about the project firsthand, listen to his recent interview with Bloomberg Radio; queue the ~6:57 mark, where Metcalf talks about the pilot phase results. The news created a lot of buzz, earning coverage in several of the country’s top healthcare publications, including HealthITAnalytics, Healthcare Informatics, Healthcare IT News and Becker’s Hospital Review.

With this research, we get closer to putting human beings – individuals such as ourselves, our loved ones – at the center of the healthcare universe. Studies like the NIH’s All of Us initiative and Renown IHI’s Healthy Nevada Project are an important first step in a coming healthcare revolution. The insights we reveal will help doctors shift their focus from after-diagnosis treatment and care to better prevention and earlier diagnoses and even targeted therapies once a person has fallen sick.

We at SAS are very proud of being a partner in transforming health care through data science – and in securing a better future for every individual on earth, one at a time. Stay tuned as more results of the Healthy Nevada Project come in. We will be sure to feature them on SAS blogs.

Data for Good: Read more stories about analytics helping humanity
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About Author

Saurabh Gupta

Director, Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Product Management

During his tenure with SAS, Saurabh has overseen and driven product strategy for the Advanced Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Retail solutions portfolios. Saurabh graduated with a Ph.D. in Operations Management from The University of Texas at Austin. He has since devoted over 19 years specializing in large scale systems analysis, design and implementations in areas such as price optimization, supply chain management and demand management. As a true advocate for leveraging his knowledge and skills to solve customer pain points, his work has received recognition from the journals of Management Science, and Production and Operations Management.

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