Certain Regions of US Lacking CPR Training

CPR training was shown in new study to be low nationwide and lower still in poorer and rural communities

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People don't have to be medical professionals to help someone having a heart attack. To make a difference, though, non-medical bystanders must be trained in how to take fast emergency action.

That fast emergency action may involve cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

According to a new study, only a fraction of Americans get CPR training through the three major organizations that offer it.

And medical professionals say cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) done by bystanders — before patients get to a hospital — can affect heart attack patients' chances for survival and recovery.

"Look into CPR training classes in your area."

Monique Anderson, MD, a cardiologist at Duke Clinical Research Institute, was this study's lead investigator.

She and her team of researchers investigated differences in CPR training in 3,143 counties across the nation and the reasons for low CPR training in certain counties.

These researchers used data on CPR training done by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross and the Health & Safety Institute. Those are the main US groups conducting CPR training for those who volunteer to be trained.

During the 12-month study, which ended June 30, 2011, the researchers found that those three organizations trained 13.1 million people. The researchers said it is likely that other organizations also conduct training but they only focused on those three main training groups.

The rates of training varied widely among the counties. Training ranged from none in certain counties to more than 4 percent of residents in counties with the highest training rates. In the middle of that range, 2.39 percent of residents in counties were trained, the researchers found.

Counties with larger percentages of black, Hispanic and low-income residents and rural counties — where there were fewer physicians and where it tended to take longer to reach a hospital — had the lowest training rates. Of counties with the lowest CPR training rates, 57 percent were in the South.

The South, Midwest and West, overall, had lower training rates than the Northeast, which had the highest training rates.

"To bring about a change in these areas, we need community, government, healthcare institutions and training organizations to come together figure out how to improve the entire ‘chain of survival’ for cardiac arrest,” Dr. Anderson said in a press statement.

According to the study, "Efforts are needed to improve rates of CPR training in all counties but particularly those in the southern and western regions and in those with high rates of rural population and lower median household incomes. Future research should be directed toward understanding whether targeted and intensive CPR training with narrowing existing disparity between rates of bystander CPR training and [heart attack] survival in these vulnerable communities."

Many counties with lower rates of CPR training also happened to have some of the highest rates of death from heart disease, the researchers wrote.

Getting CPR relatively quickly from a bystander may double the prospects that a person who has a heart attack outside of a hospital will survive. While an ambulance with emergency medical technicians is on its way, CPR needs to be done, they wrote.

The rates at which bystanders perform CPR vary from 10 percent in some communities to 65 percent in others, the researchers wrote.

Of the roughly 350,000 people in the US who have cardiac arrests outside a hospital each year, between 7 percent and 9 percent of them, on average, survive, the researchers noted.

This study was published online November 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The American Heart Association Pharmaceutical Roundtable and David and Stevie Spina funded the study.

Several of the researchers have received consultancy fees from pharmaceutical companies and the American Heart Association or sit on the board of directors for groups supporting CPR training.

Review Date: 
November 16, 2013
Last Updated:
November 25, 2013