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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

October 2019

NIEHS partners with Apple and Harvard to study women’s health

NIEHS involved in innovative study to provide better information for tailoring health advice to specific groups of women.

NIEHS will collaborate with Apple and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health on the Apple Women’s Health Study. This major new research effort is designed to provide exceptional access to information on women’s health issues by greatly expanding the data gathered.

The research will focus on menstrual cycles, osteoporosis, and gynecological conditions such as pregnancy, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and menopausal transition.

The announcement from Apple came during a Sept. 10 rollout of new products that included the latest Apple Watch. Women who participate in the study will make it possible for researchers to collect data on an unprecedented scale.

Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple's vice president of health and Apple watch Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple's vice president of health, announced the Apple Women’s Health Study Sept 10. (Photo courtesy of Tony Avelar, AP)

Promising advances

NIEHS, which has several of the world’s leading scientists on women’s health, will provide expert advice and data analysis.

Allen Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., scientist emeritus at NIEHS, has spent 40 years studying fertility and pregnancy. He welcomed the opportunity for NIEHS to team up with Apple and colleagues at Harvard University on this unique public-private partnership. Wilcox is optimistic about the medical advances that might result.

“The Apple study will allow collection of data from a much larger sample of women from more diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds than is usually possible in epidemiological studies,” said Wilcox. “The data will give us better information for tailoring health advice to specific groups of women.”

Preserving anonymity

Dale Sandler, Ph.D., NIEHS Epidemiology Branch Sandler leads her own research group within the Epidemiology Branch, called the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Participants may opt in via the Apple Research app, which will be available as a free download later this year. The study will use methods such as encryption and de-identification to keep the data collected through the app private and secure.

'This is an exciting opportunity for NIEHS researchers to contribute to the study design and use the resulting data to answer novel questions, not only important to women of reproductive age, but to women of all ages,' noted Dale Sandler, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch.

The announcement of the Apple Women’s Health Study and the NIEHS participation attracted global attention, with stories appearing in more than a dozen countries, including China, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

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