By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
About 150,000 people in Alameda County in California have been trained in Hands-Only CPR through kits provided to 7th graders during the last six years, as bystander CPR rates and patient outcomes have improved.
Now, the California State Senate is considering whether all students in the state should be trained under a CPR before graduation bill that will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
The Alameda County program, known as CPR-7, is different from most school-based CPR education efforts because the nearly 10,000 7th-grade students are trained each year and then challenged to use their new skills to train friends or family members.
“This is an Emergency Medical Services community outreach initiative,’’ said Michael Jacobs, cardiovascular care programs manager for the county’s EMS agency. “Since the inception of CPR-7 in 2010, we have seen a marginal improvement in survival rates, but a surprisingly marked improvement in neurologic function in those who are discharged alive.”
Jacobs saw the potential for youngsters to have a real-world impact on their community almost a decade ago and created the program after studying whether 7th or 10th grade would be a more appropriate setting. Though students in both grades were able to learn and remember the skills, the 7th graders were more successful at teaching others.
The Alameda County students train close to five additional people each on average, but every year some greatly exceed that number, teaching dozens or scores of community members, often through their church or another community group. The current record is held by Ellie Chan of Sunol, who trained 120 community members in the 2014-15 school year.
As part of the program, each student receives a CPR Anytime kit, which includes a small inflatable manikin and an instructional DVD. Funding for the materials, less than $300,000 per year, comes from an EMS trust fund for improvements in the emergency medical care system.
Jamie Yee Hintzke, CPR-7 program manager, is also president of the Board of Education in Pleasanton, California, and a longtime advocate for school health. Hintzke became interested in CPR and AEDs when her father-in-law’s boss’ son died after he suffered cardiac arrest during a basketball game.
Hintzke, who orchestrates the project in all 18 school districts in the county, said she frequently receives calls from across the country from others interested in starting similar programs. “I tell them it’s about the money and having the commitment to having this kind of community impact,” she said.
It’s also important for advocates to frame CPR learning in educational terms, she said. Hands-on CPR training fits well into the Common Core framework. It can enhance a science or health unit on body systems or help a PE class learn about heart health and fitness, she said.
The training and community outreach program in the county that includes Oakland, Fremont and Berkeley is receiving national attention this month thanks to an article in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services by Eric Silverman, M.D., an EMS/disaster medicine fellow at the University of California, San Francisco at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The article cites a training number of 120,000 as of June 2015; this school year’s numbers are expected to push the total above 150,000.
Silverman’s article examines the program from a system of care perspective.
“You teach one student and they teach family members and other members of the community. That is how you get the exponential growth,” he said.
Beyond the skills, Silverman sees an additional benefit in educating the next generation of citizens.
“Part of this is making people feel comfortable helping strangers and helping people in need. This program encourages students to go to churches and community groups and teach people they don’t know. That creates stronger community bonds.”
Thirty-three states now have laws requiring students to learn CPR before graduating from high school, but California, the nation’s most populous, is not currently among them. The California State Senate Education Committee on Wednesday was scheduled to hear a bill authored by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, who has worked as an EMT for three decades in the San Gabriel Valley. The State Assembly has already passed the measure, and it is supported by the California School Boards Association, the California State PTA and California Professional Firefighters.
Photos courtesy Alameda County EMS Agency