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ROCHESTER, Minnesota — It has been 50 years since Leonard Kurland, M.D., came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Rochester and established what would become a world-class, but often overlooked, gem in health care research: the Rochester Epidemiology Project (REP).
Dr. Kurland’s vision was a big data storehouse containing the full health and wellness stories – from birth to death – of every resident of Olmsted County, Minnesota. This fountain of knowledge would provide the underpinnings of many significant population health findings. However, his vision required the cooperation of all health care providers in the county. They had to be willing to invest time and technology to build what is now a premier population health repository and a unique medical records linkage system.
The REP is one of a kind.
“This unique national resource is unmatched in our country in terms of the depth and breadth of information about a single population,” says current REP co-director Walter Rocca, M.D. “And it does not have a lot of international equivalents either.”
The REP has led to more than 2,600 publications looking at where, when and how often various diseases occur, and finding causes and possible ways to prevent diseases. It is the data source for 22 major federally funded research initiatives and many other projects.
“The REP allows us to answer questions that cannot be answered anywhere else,” says Dr. Rocca. “Without the foresight and collaboration of the health care providers in Olmsted County over 50 years, we never would be able to do what we do today – or to discover something new tomorrow.”
Well over 95 percent of Olmsted County residents have become part of the REP (most recently through the Minnesota Research Authorization), contributing to worldwide understanding of health topics including:
“Fifty years is just the beginning,” says Dr. Rocca. “We will continue to build our understanding of diseases, health behaviors and environmental contributors, and their impact on future health status. With this information, we can develop ways to prevent or change the course of diseases, and, hopefully, one day, to eradicate them.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Zimmermann Young, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, firstname.lastname@example.org
To celebrate 50 years of research, and thank the community for continued participation in medical records research, the REP is engaged in a yearlong outreach program. Some upcoming opportunities to learn more about the REP include:
The NIH has continuously funded the REP since 1966. Initiated as a collaboration between what is now Olmsted Medical Center and Mayo Clinic, the REP has included various other private and public health care providers over its 50 years of existence. Olmsted County Public Health Services, several dental practices and Mayo Clinic Health System are now part of the REP, which has expanded to encompass 27 counties throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. The REP is administratively managed through the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.
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