Meet All of Us Research Program’s Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Zeno Franco

Zeno Franco, PhD was born in East Los Angeles, California and has spent much of his career working to improve the health of diverse communities. Dr. Franco moved his family to Milwaukee in 2008 and has worked on many projects at the neighborhood level to improve access to healthy food, working with the United Community Center (UCC) to address mental health of Latinos caring for parents with Alzheimer’s, and also worked to provide masks, food and essentials to families impacted by COVID-19 in collaboration with key community partners.

Dr. Franco often emphasizes the importance of culture and health. “For me it is important to remember that my father was born in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico. He was on a Green Card for many years. In fact, he only took dual citizenship very recently. My dad is suffering from a degenerative lung disease now, and I am worried that we will lose him a few years earlier than we had hoped. I wish that my kids would have him for a bit longer. My abuelito (grandfather) passed from Parkinson’s Disease, and my abuelita (grandmother) suffered from a series of strokes. I was lucky that my grandparents lived long, full lives but you still wonder if maybe it could have been a little easier at the end. For many Latinos, serious chronic diseases happen earlier in our lives and result in earlier deaths than the average American. We still don’t fully understand why; these are some of the questions the All of Us Research Program is trying to answer and is why I’m excited to co-lead this project as a researcher.”

Dr. Franco notes, “There are also important aspects of our culture that help us stay healthy. For example, Latinos have very strong personal ties to friends and family, and this has been shown to help protect health. However, other issues like poverty, obesity, and where we live can hurt us. One of the reasons that I am excited about the All of Us Research Program is that it begins to explore the connection between our genetics, our health behaviors and the environments where we live in a more detailed way than prior research has done.”

The All of Us Research Program is working to include one million people in the US to ensure that all people are represented. For Dr. Franco, this idea of inclusive representation is important, “My belief is that some key advances in how healthcare is managed will come from research done on data collected by the All of Us Research Program over the next few decades. We want to be sure that those advances help everyone, and that is why it is important that all communities are involved. I see it as an investment in our children and grandchildren, that we are thinking about the generations that will come after us.”

If you’d like to join, Dr. Franco invites you to visit the program website: JoinAllofUs.org/es or call the main phone number at (414) 955-2689, where information is also available in Spanish with bilingual staff from the Milwaukee area.