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CPR: Why it's important to be up to date on training

Adrian Midgley

Someone collapses and goes into cardiac arrest in public, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is crucial for that persons survival yet only one in five adults are current on CPR training. And training may not be as available to some people as it is to others.

Our guest Dr. Benjamin Abella is a professor of emergency medicine and the director of the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He joins us to discuss how CPR affects survival rates in patients who go into cardiac arrest and how important it is that you are trained.

According to a national telephone study, only one in five adults have current CPR training. While a larger portion of this 20 percent have cited that they had training at one point, a majority of them said it has been 10 years or more since they have been trained. The longer it's been since you have had CPR training, the less likely you are to act in a situation that requires someone being administered CPR.

"Also, it’s important to know that the science of CPR changes, so the lessons you may have learned a decade ago may not apply now. So when we found that only one in five adults had current CPR training we found that to be very worrisome,” said Abella.

Time is key when it comes to survival of cardiac arrest. According to Abella, for every minute that a patient is in cardiac arrest, they are 10 percent less likely to survive. The American Heart Association’s chain of survival shows what steps need to be taken in the event someone does go into cardiac arrest.

Calling 911 is the first step when it comes to the chain of survival but it doesn't just make sure emergency responders are on the way. Dispatch operators can help determine if someone needs CPR if you are unsure.

"So if someone collapses, 911 should be called right away and one of the reasons why is the dispatchers are trained to walking a bystander through some very quick and simple diagnostic steps to determine what might be going on," said Abella.

How people could get more training

Time isn't the only factor when it comes to people not being trained in CPR. Socioeconomic factors play a role in if people are trained. Those living in minority-dominated neighborhoods are less likely to know CPR and also are less likely to survive a cardiac arrest in their neighborhood.

"If you are a minority … you are likely to have a cardiac arrest in your predominantly minority neighborhood, so who knows CPR directly impacts your chance of receiving it and therefore your chance of survival," says Abella.  "And a number of studies have shown unfortunately that if you live in a predominately African American or Latino neighborhoods your chance of receiving CPR is much lower and your chance of surviving cardiac arrest is much lower."

Since training tends to happen in school or at specific jobs, minority groups don't have the same opportunities to get training. It also costs money and resources to get trained. Abella is working with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation in Philadelphia to bring the training to people that may not have those resources.

"We developed a program called the Mobile CPR Project where we take care of all the logistics and all the costs so we can provide free CPR training specifically targeted to these communities, communities that are less likely to have CPR knowledge, because we feel it’s that important,” said Abella.