Seven things you need to know about Our Future Health

Spotlight – 30 June 2022
Learn more about Our Future Health’s research programme.

1. What is Our Future Health? 

Our Future Health will be the UK’s largest ever health research programme, designed to help researchers to discover new ways to prevent, detect, and treat diseases. 

Our mission is to build a community of five million people aged 18+, from across the UK, who will donate their health information to create a powerful national resource. Researchers can apply to us to access information that is of interest to their areas of study. 

The goal of Our Future Health is to help future generations live in good health for longer. 

2. Why is Our Future Health needed? 

Despite advances in healthcare and medicine, large numbers of people in the UK still spend many years of their later life in poor health because of common diseases and health conditions. Research suggests that 54% of people aged 65 or older live with two or more serious health conditions. By 2035, that figure is expected to rise to 68%. 

Currently, health systems focus on treating people once they show symptoms of diseases. However, diseases often start in the body long before symptoms are detectable. It is a costly approach that leads to worse health outcomes. 

With Our Future Health, researchers will be able to analyse data that will help them to identify more effective ways of tackling diseases. For example, they might discover a new test that detects cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat. 

3. Why target five million people? 

Five million volunteers sounds like a lot of people – and it is! Few health research programmes have ever been attempted at this scale.  

The size of Our Future Health is a crucial factor in making it useful to researchers. It will give researchers the spread of data that they need to make important new discoveries. 

It’s equally important that our volunteers come from a diverse background. In the past, most research studies have not had enough representation from people of black, Asian and minority ethnic descent, or from people who have lower incomes. This means that the medical advances made from some research may not benefit everyone equally.  

Everyone has something unique to give. To make discoveries that benefit all kinds of people, we need every kind of person to take part. 

4. What do Our Future Health volunteers do? 

There are three stages to joining Our Future Health: 

  1. You are asked to sign a consent form. This confirms that you agree to take part in our programme, and it explains everything we request from you. For example, we ask your permission to combine the information you give us with your existing health records.  
  2. You are asked to complete an online questionnaire about your lifestyle and medical history. This is estimated to take 30 minutes of your time. 
  3. You are asked to provide a small blood sample. Your sample is taken by a healthcare professional. There are no home kits required. 

Once you have signed-up, you may be contacted in the future by researchers who are looking to conduct additional studies in their area of expertise. You may also receive feedback on your health information, if you choose to do so. 

5. How will I know that my data is safe? 

We know that we are asking you to donate something highly personal for the sake of helping people to live in good health for longer. Consequently, the security of your data is of the utmost importance to us.  

All the information that we collect about you will be encrypted and stored securely. 

The data stored by Our Future Health will not be available to everyone. We will only grant access to researchers whose work passes our strict ethical and scientific criteria. We will ensure they view our data in a secure digital environment. 

The data they view will be ‘de-identified’. This means we will remove any information that could identify you (such as your name, address, and date of birth) and store it separately from your health-related data. 

We will never sell your data to advertisers or insurance companies. 

6. How is Our Future Health funded?  

Our Future Health is a registered charity (charity number 1189681).  

We received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – the UK Government-funded body that invests in science and research – to help set up the programme.  

To supplement this, we are bringing in funding partners such as charities and companies that conduct health research and make medicines. We are aiming to secure funding of up to £160 million from these sectors. 

7. How long will Our Future Health last for? 

Our target is to build a resource of five million people by 2025. Researchers will be able to study our information beyond that date, as they continue to seek new ways to detect, prevent, and treat diseases. 

Our volunteers will stay enrolled in Our Future Health for life unless they decide to leave. 

Sign up for news about Our Future Health by using the form at the bottom of our homepage