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As our population ages, new solutions are necessary to keep home owners in their homes longer. New technologies are being introduced, but this latest research points to more than technology - it suggests that family life and community, along with data, are more important for ongoing wellness.

It’s no secret that a rising flood of data, from the results of sophisticated genetic tests to the vital signs recorded by your smartphone, is transforming the way we approach health and wellness. But one of the pioneers of that trend says big data could well shift the focus of the quest for wellness from the hospital to the home.

“I think the most powerful unit for scientific wellness is the family,” Leroy Hood, co-founder of Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology and chief science officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, said during a Wednesday night forum on the future of health.

The forum was hosted by the Institute for System Biology’s headquarters as part of Town Hall Seattle’s science lecture series.

Hood and the evening’s two other speakers — Howard Frumkin of the University of Washington School of Public Health and John Aitchison, president and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research — agreed that big-data approaches will change our perspectives on the world and our own health.

Those approaches could extend even to the way we cope with climate change, Frumkin said. For example, he’d love to have enough data analytics to predict the onset of an El Niño weather pattern, and gauge its effect on rainfall, agriculture and population health for a specific region of Africa.

Frumkin said all that analysis could be combined to anticipate, and potentially head off, future crises. “These are the kinds of seeds we need to be developing to be drought-tolerant, or these are the kinds of crops we need to be providing, or these are the kinds of housing policies we need to be developing to blunt the impacts that we can forecast,” he said.

Aitchison said a similar big-data approach could be applied to epidemiology. “We would like to use these data analytics to make predictions of disease before they happen,” he said.

For most people, personal health and wellness will be where the big-data revolution hits home. Literally.

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