Americans Care

Most would use CPR or an automated external defibrillator, even on strangers

November 28, 2000

Results of a national survey presented on September 22 indicate that public awareness campaigns on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automatic external defibrillators (AED) are having a positive impact on the American public, because people are less fearful than commonly believed about helping someone, even a stranger, in the event of an emergency.

Mary M. Newman, executive director of the new National Center for Early Defibrillation (NCED) at the University of Pittsburgh, presented new statistics on public awareness, attitudes and experiences related to resuscitation at the Emergency Cardiac Care Update international educational conference in San Diego.

Researchers who studied CPR in the past found resuscitative training was ineffective and poorly targeted. Additionally, the effectiveness of CPR training depended on the quality of the instructor as well as the confidence and competence of the student. Fear of disease transmission was another factor why many Americans in earlier surveys said they were afraid to perform CPR.

Curiosity about the current status of public awareness and experience related to resuscitation prompted the recent study, which was conducted from June 9 to 13, 1999. More than 1000 people were randomly selected to participate in a national telephone survey. Questions were intended to gauge the exposure to CPR and AED training, peoples willingness to take a CPR-AED class, to use CPR or AED in an emergency and to help strangers, friends and family members. People also were asked why they would or would not use CPR or AED on strangers, friends and family members.

Results of the study found most adults have been trained in CPR and one in nine Americans has used it. Most are willing to use CPR to help known victims as well as strangers, and concerns about disease transmission and legal liability are rare.

"It is encouraging to know that so many laypersons have taken the time to learn CPR and that contrary to popular perceptions, most people would not hesitate to use it, even on strangers. It is also exciting to know automated external defibrillation is becoming a familiar concept to many Americans. Our hope is to help make defibrillation a household word," says Mary Newman, B.S., principal investigator of the study.

One way Ms. Newman is increasing public awareness is through the formation of the National Center for Early Defibrillation (NCED), an independent non-profit center dedicated to improving survival from sudden cardiac arrest. The center hopes to accomplish this by providing comprehensive information on the use of AEDs for the public and emergency medical professionals. The center also will offer an all-inclusive website containing resources about early defibrillation, a toll-free telephone number for information about how to place AEDs in public venues, AED program consultation and a full range of resource materials. NCED will make its debut this fall with Ms. Newman serving as executive director.

Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh, Ms. Newman was an investigator for Krannert Institute of Cardiology at Indiana UniversitySchool of Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind. and Catalyst Research and Communications, Inc. in Carmel, Ind., where she conducted this survey. Funding was provided by a grant from Medtronic Physio-Control.