The Million Veteran Program, Getting Closer to that Magic Number
Imagine walking into your VA medical center and receiving screenings and treatments designed just for you. For example, your health care provider knows that you have a gene variant indicating a higher risk for heart disease, so the provider takes extra measures to monitor your blood pressure.
Take this a step further, your mental health care provider knows that your particular genetic makeup means you’ll be more responsive to a particular drug treatment for depression than another, so the provider is able to bring an effective treatment faster. This is what the Million Veteran Program researchers’ goal is to one day achieve for Veterans. It’s one of the largest, richest collections of information about genetics and lifestyle in the world.
VA's Million Veteran Program (MVP) is a national research program looking at how genes, lifestyle, military experiences, and exposures affect health and wellness in Veterans.
MVP researchers use genetic, health, lifestyle, and military background information to understand how genes affect health and illness. Understanding differences in our genes can help explain why some people get diseases and respond to certain treatments while others don’t. This can also help health care providers offer better preventative care and treatments of illnesses and disease.
According to Lashasta Davis, the Columbia VA Health Care System (VAHCS) MVP Coordinator, as of March 21, 2023, there have been 13,346 Columbia VAHCS Veterans and 940,126 nationwide that have participated in MVP since its inception in 2011. It's the largest research effort at VA to improve health care for Veterans and one of the largest research programs in the world studying genes and health.
MVP researchers are committed to understanding the relationship between genes and health. Because of the participation of the more than 940,000 Veterans, they have made discoveries around a range of health conditions faced by Veterans including:
• Why people with African ancestry may be more at risk for severe kidney disease if they contract COVID-19.
• How military experience and race might affect breast cancer risk.
• The role of genetics as a risk factor for obesity, diabetes, and abnormal lipid levels—all drivers of heart disease.
• How eating yogurt may be beneficial for your health.
MVP is committed to using its research findings to improve health and wellness for Veterans by accelerating the medical community’s advancement to personalized health care. The program also hopes to use research to improve treatments by informing the development of new drugs and/or re-purposing existing drugs for other conditions.
Research improves with every Veteran who joins because each person brings their unique genetic information, lifestyle and military experiences to the program. Researchers especially want to advance understanding of health conditions that impact women and people of African and Hispanic ancestry, as those groups have traditionally been under-represented in research. The more varied MVP’s data, the more discoveries researchers can make.
“The Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program has reached almost one million veterans, but it needs more women participants,” said Davis. “The Million Veteran Program wants thousands more women to sign up for genetic study.”
It’s easy to enroll in MVP. You can visit many VA facilities nationwide or enroll from the comfort of your home online. Be assured that MVP is committed to keeping participant information protected. All information collected as a part of MVP is stored in a secure database only available for research purposes.
Make your mark on the future of Veteran health care by becoming ‘one of the million.’