Lower-income and rural areas, particularly in the South, have very few people trained in proper cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques, according to a new study by Duke University. These are the areas that most need people who are trained in CPR—they are the parts of the country with the highest rates of cardiovascular illness, meaning people are more prone to heart-related medical emergencies—but they are also the areas where people to whom those emergencies happen are least likely to have someone around who can help.
This is a serious public health issue, researchers say, because CPR, performed quickly, can dramatically improve survival rates. Survival drops off ten percentage points for every minute of delay in starting CPR. Even simple compression CPR—call 911, then push hard and fast on the chest until help arrives—can help save lives, at least as compared to doing nothing. Often, nothing is exactly what people who see a person go into cardiac arrest do, generally out of a fear that they’ll do something wrong and cause further harm. That’s why laws have been passed in North Carolina and 11 other states that make CPR training a requirement for high school graduation, with yet more states considering doing the same.
Even without a requirement, more and more schools are teaching students CPR. In fact, the American Heart Association has developed a training kit specifically designed to be used with school health curricula to teach CPR to teens. It uses an inflatable manikin and a DVD to teach the needed skills in less than 30 minutes. The hope is that by teaching CPR to the next generation, we can be sure people will be able to help for a long time to come.
Even faster are one-minute training kiosks for compression CPR such as one recently installed in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The American Heart Association revised its guidelines in 2010 to reflect the understanding that this hands-only form of CPR can save lives when ambulances are on the way. The kiosk in Dallas is part of a pilot program to create instructional guides that untrained bystanders can turn to in an emergency situation.