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The SUDDEN team travelled to Surry County to meet with a prevention task force to discuss public health measures to prevent sudden unexpected death.


Out of Hospital Sudden Unexpected Death (OHSUD) accounts for 10-15% of all natural deaths in the 18-64 year old population; causes and contributing factors are not well understood and current prevention strategies seem to be ineffective. The SUDDEN team, in partnership with Surry County Emergency Medical Services, the County Health Department, hospital case managers, mental health professionals, veteran service organizations, community volunteers and other stakeholders, developed a community-based pilot program to prevent OHSUD.

Irion W Pursell, Jr., an investigator with the SUDDEN project says, “The heterogeneity of out of hospital sudden unexpected death requires a population-based intervention at the county level. We are proud to partner with Surry County to pilot the first Task Force in the nation focused on prevention of OHSUD”

“The outstanding interagency collaboration that exists in Surry County provides the perfect environment to brainstorm and implement an approach to combat OHSUD.” states Task Force member, Jason P. Stopyra, MD, Medical Director of Surry County Emergency Services and Health and Nutrition Center.

The Sudden Unexpected Death in North Carolina (SUDDEN) Project provides the Task Force with clinical and demographic data on OHSUD victims in Surry County. Task Force goals are:

1. Achieve a greater understanding of the causes and contributing factors of OHSUD in the county,

2. Identify target populations and neighborhoods within the county for prevention/intervention,

3. Develop a patient engagement and intervention strategy for each stakeholder

4. Broadly disseminate the data, methods and other findings of the pilot project

Surry County Commissioner, Larry R Phillips says, “The in-depth understanding the findings of the SUDDEN project has brought to light better equips our county to continue our interagency work to address and reduce out of hospital sudden unexpected deaths. The research team has my profound gratitude.”

The first Task Force meeting was 19 May 2016; follow up meetings are scheduled quarterly. The Surry County pilot program will be a template for expanding the program to other counties in North Carolina.