Growing up in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, a desert valley located southeast of Los Angeles, Alex Aldana saw firsthand how cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases affected those in his predominantly migrant Latino community.
Aiming to make a difference in his community, Aldana volunteered to participate in the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank.
“Too often, people think that we just have to wait for a cure,” said Aldana, a Kaiser Permanente member who works as a research assistant at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “But the more we know about our own genetics, the more we can help many generations to come.”
Kaiser Permanente pathologist Reva Ricketts-Loriaux, sits on the research bank’s access review committee, which determines how researchers can use the bank’s blood samples and medical information. “We want to make sure the research that is done is practical and meaningful to our patients,” she noted. “We want to get a large diverse population.”
A participant of the research bank herself, Ricketts-Loriaux added, “Not everyone is a scientist or researcher, but anyone can add to scientific knowledge simply by donating blood.”
The Kaiser Permanente Research Bank has the potential to bring crucial information to communities that are historically underserved by medical research. These communities also often have some of the poorest outcomes from diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
“A big focus for the Research Bank is working with communities of color, in an effort to have findings that are going to benefit these communities,” said Tiffany McDaniel, MPH, KP Research Bank national community advisory board member. “If we’re looking at the bigger picture of how environmental factors influence particular health outcomes that are more prevalent in the Latino, African-American, and
Asian Pacific Islander community, then we need to enroll as many people as possible to participate in these research studies.”
The information gathered by the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank can allow researchers to learn what causes certain diseases and share that information with these communities.
“We can’t come out with a community solution if we don’t participate.” Aldana explained. “There’s ‘nothing about us without us.’”
If you have friends and family members who also are Kaiser Permanente members who may want to learn more about the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank, please have them visit our new website kp.org/researchbank.