Veterans across America now have the ability to join the Million Veterans Program research project online.
Launched in 2011, the national voluntary research initiative enables former military personnel to share their DNA with the Veterans Affairs Department to boost research on how genes and other factors like military exposure can impact people’s overall health. The agency’s ultimate hope is that this “will make it even easier for Veterans nationwide to take part in this landmark research effort,” Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the recent announcement.
MVP enables veterans who opt-in to complete surveys about their health, lifestyle, military experience and personal and family histories, as well as make a one-time visit to a VA center to provide a blood sample for genetic analysis. Participants don’t receive any follow-up information from the program to benefit them directly, but instead contribute the data to medical research in hopes to improve health across future generations.
So far, more than 775,000 veterans have already voluntarily supplied their DNA to the program, which researchers use to better understand how genes and other factors influence health and could lead to stronger treatments of disease. So far, MVP data has been put to use in more than 30 projects across the VA, supporting efforts around understanding the roles that genes play in heart disease, cancer and suicide. In Connecticut’s VA health care system for example, researchers are using MVP data to figure out specific genetic and clinical markers that can support the prediction of breast cancer risk. They aim to build a new screening strategy for detecting the life-threatening disease.
Under the new digital-first approach, veterans already enrolled in VA care can now use their credentials to log into MVP Online, explore the personalized dashboard and, if they’re interested, use the portal to complete all elements of the consent process. Participants can allow access to their health records for research purposes, provide information about their health and backgrounds and schedule a visit to supply a blood sample.
The agency is also exploring ways to make the blood sample collection easier for veterans who do not live near MVP collection sites.
“MVP has already resulted in a number of important scientific publications that increase our knowledge of conditions that affect Veterans’ health, and we expect this resource to continue to prove its value over the coming years,” Wilkie said.