On the military beat: Genetic study seeks local vets

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2011 - 5:47 PM

Researchers at the Minneapolis Veterans Hospital are participating in a national study of veterans' health that could result in the largest ever genetic database of its kind. The Million Veterans Program seeks to enlist the help of a million veterans over the next five to seven years to study military-related illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and military exposures, as well as health problems that affect everyone, such as heart disease and cancer.

Minneapolis is one of about a dozen regions that are now soliciting volunteers to participate. It involves filling out a survey about health and health-related behaviors; providing a blood sample; allowing secure access to VA and VA-linked medical and health information, including past and future health records; and agreeing to be contacted in the future.

Like other areas, Minneapolis officials hope to mail a solicitation letter about the survey and encourage veterans who show up for regular VA visits to participate.

In its first two weeks of operation, about 30 veterans have signed up, said Dr. Scott Sponheim, who is coordinating the local effort.

Sponheim said Minneapolis hopes to reach 20,000 veterans within the next five to seven years. Any veteran interested in participating can call 1-866-441-6075 or get further information at www.research.va.gov/mvp.

Researchers promise that the information provided will be confidential and secure. The massive scope of the project will take advantage of the VA's 85-year history of research. The VA system sees more than 6 million patients a year.

"This gives us the capacity to do a very large database like this," said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, head of research and development for the Veterans Health Administration.

"We have every disease imaginable in our health care system. These are groups of people who may be underrepresented in other databases. Virtually anything you want to study is available in the VA health care system."

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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