If you smoke cigarettes, you’re putting yourself at a heightened risk for heart disease. That correlation is well-known and unchallenged today, but that wasn’t always so. It took an ambitious, years-long project, the Framingham Heart Study, to uncover the link, and it only happened because of the study’s commitment to comprehensive data collection.
Now, a group of researchers at New York University hopes to apply similar methods to an even more formidable sample: They plan to recruit and study 10,000 New Yorkers for 20 years, using modern technology to track nearly every single aspect of their lives.
Using fitness trackers, physical examinations, questionnaires, and electronic data collection, The Human Project aims to piece together daily minutiae that collectively affect our health. This includes things like physicals at the doctor’s office, mental health checkups, fitness levels and genomes, but also extends to cell phone usage, financial information, social networks, education, employment and more. They hope it will amount to the most holistic view of human health we’ve ever achieved.
Some valuable insights to be gleaned include fine-grained data on how different factors like poverty and the environment play into development, how cognitive decline impacts health, how our diets are shaped, the effects of air pollution and much more.
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