Committee Corner: Worcester Needs to Lead Way in Establishing Heartsafe Community

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillation (AED) training may be the most valuable lesson a student can learn – how to save the life of a loved one, teacher, or friend by performing the simple steps of CPR.  This method can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

With this thought in mind and as a member of the Wellness Committee for the Worcester Public Schools, six years ago  I asked if we could start a course in CPR/AED training. With the support of Dr. Leonard Morse, then Commissioner of Public Health, we were able to secure a grant of $15,000 from the Hoche-Scofield Foundation.  The Department of Public Health partnered with the Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Fire Department to begin a voluntary CPR/AED certification program in our secondary schools.  The program was successful but later the funding disappeared.

Now I am working with the American Heart Association, the Worcester Public Schools Health and Physical Education Department and our School nurses.  We are trying to initiate a CPR Hands Only training  for all the students from grades 7-12.  The training will take place each year during  physical education classes and the students will learn about compressions and how to use the AED machine.  The main obstacle is finding ways of acquiring the necessary equipment.

The committee is looking into possible grants and looking for used mannequins within the community.   If anyone can assist us with the mannequins please let me know for we want this to be a community effort.  according to research, CPR provided by a bystander increases a person’s chance of survival, yet people who live in poverty are 50 percent less likely to receive CPR from a bystander, and they also have the lowest chances of surviving a cardiac arrest.  Thus, if the schools could provide this service to the community there is a greater chance of having CPR trained individuals in all areas of our community.

The mannequins that we require are about $50.00 each and we are in need of 220 to meet the needs of all of our secondary schools.  Thus, we are hoping that area Health education programs or colleges within our community or individuals willing to purchase mannequins could assist us in this most important project.

This is not about school testing but it’s about educating the whole child in being an able responder within the community.  As a city it would be reassuring to know that we have a small army out there with the needed skills of CPR.

Keep in mind that Heart Attacks are the leading cause of deaths in the United States. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.  “ Bystanders–whether in a public gathering space such as an airport or shopping mall,  in a workplace or at home –play an in important role in improving the chances of survival,” said Dr. Robert W. Neumar, M.D., Ph.D., who is a professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine for the University of Michigan Health Systems.  In cardiac arrest, every minute counts.  In addition, since 88% of cardiac arrests happen in the home, it is very likely that the life you save with CPR is the life of a loved one.

The American Heart Association designated Worcester a “HeartSafe” community in May of 2004.  In response to this distinction the Division of Public Health felt an increased responsibility to build upon and work on making this community HeartSafe.  During those first few years, with assistance from the summer college interns, the city established a Central Registry of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) focusing on their ready availability at key locations, supported by a response team certified in CPR and AED and offering referral for their technical maintenance.

Isn’t it time that we add another dimension to our HeartSafe city by teaching our students about CPR and AED training?


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