case study

Hypertension Screening Program

We evaluated the impact of a youth-led hypertension screening program among high school students and community members

Client: The American Heart Association

The Issue

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a very common condition that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease.

Up to one-third of individuals with hypertension are unaware, and thus cannot benefit from available, effective treatments.

The Outcomes

We evaluated two phases of an intervention enlisting high school students to conduct hypertension screening in their communities.

Over 1,600 students screened 11,920 community members and 603 fellow students for hypertension.

These screening efforts found 6% elevated blood pressure among adults and 14% among students.


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

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

Engaging High School Students in Community Health

In 2006, the American Heart Association hired 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 the first implementation of the program, 960 LAUSD students in predominantly Latino communities were trained to conduct blood pressure screening and provide educational materials and referrals. Students screened 5,200 community members, and identified 6% with elevated blood pressure. These individuals were given a phone number referral for follow-up care. This first phase of the program demonstrated that engaging high school students as outreach workers was a feasible way to reach large numbers of community members at risk for undiagnosed hypertension.

This novel program trained high school students to identify adults with elevated blood pressure in their communities, and screened over 10,000 people.

In 2008, Sentient Research began working on the second phase of the program, which measured intervention impacts 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.

One in six high school students screened in the study had elevated blood pressure, the overwhelming majority of whom had no prior hypertension diagnosis.

In the second phase of the program, students received similar training and conducted community screenings of over 6,000 community members. The trained students also conducted screenings of their fellow students. Of the 603 students who were screened, 14% had a blood pressure measurement in the hypertensive range. Students with elevated blood pressure readings were referred to the school nurse for follow-up. Students who participated in the training and screening program had significantly increased interest in certain health careers. At the end of the study, Sentient Research provided technical assistance with writing two manuscripts that were published in the journal Ethnicity & Disease.