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CASE STUDY: Hypertension Program, American Heart Association
Program Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation / 2006-2009


We partnered with the American Heart Association and local schools to screen 10,000 community members and 600 students for hypertension.



Hypertension is an extremely prevalent condition that can lead to a range of serious health outcomes, including heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Despite the fact that hypertension is easy to detect and that effective treatments are available, it too often goes undiagnosed or untreated. Indeed, hypertension affects approximately 25% of adults in the US, but up to 1/3 of individuals with the condition do not know they have it.

In 2006, the American Heart Association enlisted the services of Dr. Montoya (services were provided through Sentient Research beginning in 2007) to evaluate a large-scale intervention enlisting Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high school students to conduct hypertension screening in their communities. In Phase I of this intervention, our staff entered and analyzed data for over 5,200 surveys of community members. This first phase demonstrated that utilizing high school students as outreach workers was a feasible way to reach large numbers of community members at risk for undiagnosed hypertension.

In the second phase of the program, carried out one year later, Sentient Research included impact measures of the intervention on students as well as community members. In this phase, we were responsible for developing a detailed study protocol, training program staff regarding data collection and quality assurance, developing and pilot testing an assessment for community participants, developing and pilot testing a pre and post-test survey instrument for students (which measured blood pressure, demographics, risk behavior, and changes in knowledge, behavior, interest in healthcare careers, and empowerment), data analysis, and writing a comprehensive report. Both phases of this project required ongoing coordination with various stakeholders from the American Heart Association, LAUSD, and program funders.

In both phases of the program, a total of 1,674 high school students from 26 high schools screened 11,920 members of their communities for hypertension and found 3% undiagnosed hypertension. Adults with hypertensive readings were given a phone number for referral into care. In addition, one in six urban district high school students screened in this study had elevated blood pressure, the overwhelming majority of whom had no prior hypertension diagnosis. Students with elevated blood pressure readings were referred to the school nurse for follow-up. Sentient Research provided substantial technical assistance with writing two manuscripts which were published in the journal Ethnicity & Disease (see below).

Articles related to this program:

Ovbiagele, B, Hutchison P, Handschumacher L, Gutierrez M, Yellin-Mednick S, Beanes S, Cooper EM, Shields L, Horowitz D, Moore CL. Impact of an Urban Community Hypertension Screening Program on Participating High School Students. Ethnicity & Disease. 2011;21(1):68-73.

Ovbiagele, B, Hutchison P, Handschumacher L, Coleman A, Gutierrez M, Yellin-Mednick S, Beanes S, Cooper EM, Pratt FD. Educating and Mobilizing Youth to Detect Undiagnosed Elevated Blood Pressure: Searching for the Silent Killer. Ethnicity & Disease. 2008;18:84-88.




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