Researchers Create Large Registry to Study High Blood Pressure in Children

June 18, 2024

High blood pressure in children and adolescents is becoming more common, but the reasons why aren’t clear. The long-term consequences of youth-onset hypertension are also not fully understood.

To address this gap, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine launched the Study of the Epidemiology of Pediatric Hypertension (SUPERHERO), a retrospective registry of youth referred to subspeciality clinics for hypertension disorders. The ongoing initiative includes 14 Children’s Hospitals in North America that will follow participants from childhood through adulthood.

A manuscript, outlining the study’s methods and goals, recently published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“Unfortunately, there has been little research that focuses on high blood pressure in children, so providers rely on data from adult studies to determine the most effective treatment,” said Andrew Michael South, M.D., associate professor of pediatric nephrology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator. “There’s a crucial need to develop evidence-based best practices based on data from large-scale studies that include diverse populations.”

The study began in January 2015 with more than 16,000 study participants to date. It is the largest cohort of youth with hypertension disorders, and Wake Forest University School of Medicine serves as the primary coordinator center. The study is unique in that the study remains open to enrollment for other hospitals interested in participating.

South said the researchers have assembled a transdisciplinary team with expertise in clinical care, epidemiology, statistics and biomedical informatics.

The paper outlines four main objectives of the study:

  1. Understand how epidemiology and practice patterns vary across time and geography.
  2. Determine contributions of social determinants to health disparities.
  3. Define cardiovascular disease risk.
  4. Determine which medications and other interventions are most effective to inform future clinical trials.

“Children who have obesity and those from marginalized communities have double the hypertension risk,” South said. “Our goal is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease and to establish biomedical informatics best practices to improve electronic health record data analysis.”

South said there’s no current evidence that routinely screening blood pressure, diagnosing hypertension or treating it in adolescence can prevent adult cardiovascular disease.

“Cardiovascular disease from hypertension is a leading cause of death in adults,” South said. “It’s imperative that we improve our understanding of youth-onset hypertension disorder epidemiology to improve public health.”

Media contact: Myra Wright,