In his 2015 State of the Union, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative — a massive research project designed to gain more insight into how we live with and treat various diseases. Last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) changed the initiative’s name to the warmer, fuzzier, All of Us, and opened enrollment in hopes of achieving its goal of gaining anonymous health information from one million Americans.
At the moment, the number of involved citizens is far more modest, but the department is kicking things into high gear by purchasing up to 10,000 Fitbit devices for participants. The company is the first wearable maker to get the green light from the NIH for the project, due in part to its compatibility with the two major mobile operating systems and the fact that its devices last several days on a charge — making them more ideal for on-going fitness and sleep tracking.
Participants will get to choose from two of Fitbit’s most popular devices, the Charge 2 and Alta HR. “Lifestyle information is critical to this — sleep, heart rate information, physical activity, those are all essential elements,” Fitbit Health Solutions General Manager Adam Pellegrini told TechCrunch ahead of the announcement. “We will be able to give a real sample of energy levels, how people are sleeping, their walking — those type of things. We’re getting that information as people live their normal lives.”
The everyday aspect is a key to the study — figuring out the ways in which health is impacted outside of a clinical setting. In its current iteration, the study will run about a year with these devices, and that information will inform how wearables will be used in the program moving forward.