Vision Statement

The SUDDEN Project aims to create new knowledge around the demographic and biomedical factors that influence Out of Hospital Sudden Unexpected Death (OHSUD) throughout the United States, improve targeted prevention strategies, and reduce the burden of OHSUD through meaningful community and academic partnerships.


Out-of-hospital sudden unexpected death (OHSUD) in younger adults is a major public health problem in North Carolina and throughout the United States, accounting for an estimated 10% of natural deaths each year. Although scientific innovations have produced impressive gains in the treatment of many health problems, we are still ill equipped to respond to premature death. The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one transcends economics, gender, race, and ethnicity. The impact of OHSUD in society is widespread, as loved ones are often emotionally overwhelmed, and family economics may be disrupted. As survivors, we are left wondering, what could we have done to prevent this occurrence?SUDDEN venn diagram

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has initiated the SUDDEN Project, a multiyear research study to evaluate this very question while developing a deeper understanding of factors that put communities at risk of OHSUD. Despite the large burden sudden death places, there are many inconsistencies in its reporting and characterization. The SUDDEN Project aims to create new knowledge around the demographic and medical factors that influence unexpected sudden death throughout the United States including healthcare utilization, neighborhood poverty, and associated conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. This knowledge can be used to improve targeted prevention strategies and reduce the burden of OHSUD through meaningful community and academic partnerships.

The SUDDEN study will collect information about people ages 18 to 64 who died suddenly and unexpectedly in an effort to improve prevention by identifying high-risk populations and meaningful predictors of sudden death. For example, preliminary results in a SUDDEN pilot project have shown that there are certain medical conditions that may be more common among victims of sudden unexpected death than there are in the general population. The information gathered from the SUDDEN study will help us learn about the medical history, clinical profiles, and social conditions of these groups to better understand what is driving these disparities.

For those victims previously overlooked, SUDDEN may become a life or death endeavor. Unlike prior studies, which focused on primarily white, middle-class populations in the Northwestern United States and Northern Europe, this study targets a diverse population that is socioeconomically and racially more representative of the United States as a whole. The SUDDEN study was initiated in Wake County, the second largest county in North Carolina. Since then, the study has expanded across North Carolina, with ongoing development of new partnerships in bordering states. Groups that have been underrepresented in most medical studies, such as African-Americans, women, and people with fewer economic resources, will be evaluated in a manner that has never been done before.