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Hands only CPR in California


Authored by Lisa Vittayarukskul, CSULA U.S.U. Board of Directors Chair

As you may know, California had a chance to create a new generation of lifesavers by passing legislation to teach Hands-Only CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to high school students as a component for graduation. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass this legislative session, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up the cause, and here’s why!

Each year, over 326,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. Cardiac arrest – an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs – is a leading cause of death in the United States. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival often depends on immediately receiving emergency cardiac care including effective bystander CPR and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). For every minute without CPR, survival from witnessed cardiac arrest decreases 7-10 percent.  The time between the initial 9-1-1 telephone call and the arrival of Emergency Medical Services personnel may be longer than five minutes; therefore, a cardiac arrest victim’s survival is likely dependent on a bystander emergency cardiac care.

Unfortunately, the truth is approximately 70% of Americans felt helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they do not know how to perform CPR or they are afraid of hurting the victim.

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showcased data which reflected that the number of people with cardiac arrest who got bystander CPR and use of defibrillators by first response increased from around 14% in 2010 to 23.1% in 2013. In addition, prior research has shown that Hands-Only CPR –focusing solely on chest compressions–can prevent brain damage and double or triple survival rates. Another study followed patients with bystander-witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCAs) between 2005 and 2010 and found that the number of events had increased; with on-site public defibrillators, the bystander chest compression and bystander defibrillation had increased as well. Overall, bystanders who offer CPR to a person in need can improve their survival rates and reduce associated neurological issues, such as brain damage that can result from cardiac arrest.

According to the official journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation, provision of bystander CPR is known to be a critical determinant of survival from OHCAs. Affiliated studies have demonstrated survival rates much higher (from 47.6% to 53%) than the estimated overall average rate of survival from OHCA (7.9%), using a variety of strategies for early defibrillation in which AEDs were used by responders who were not healthcare professionals.

As stated in Circulation, the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation strongly recommended in 2003 that CPR training be incorporated into secondary school student’s curriculum with the rationale that over the long term, teaching students lifesaving skills of Hands-On CPR would annually put thousands of lifesavers in our communities, creating a generation of first responders.

So far, only 24 states have established policies to incorporate CPR training for high school graduation. With 4,495 high schools in California and only two districts mandating CPR training as a high school requirement, there thousands of students missing out on learning the lifesaving skills of Hands-On CPR!  We will continue to pursue local and state level legislation to incorporate emergency cardiac care skills, like Hands-On CPR, into our schools with the goal of creating a new generation of lifesavers.

If you don’t know Hands-On CPR, take two minutes to learn the basic skills here.


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