The Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, called on state and local education departments Tuesday to make CPR training a graduation requirement for middle and high school students in the United States.
The request was part of a series of eight recommendations established in “Strategies to Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival: A Time to Act,” a two-year long report commissioned by the American Red Cross and various federal agencies.
Created under the supervision of a 19-member committee of experts, the recommendations took aim at improving outcomes of and responses to incidents of cardiac arrest—an “immense and sustained public health problem,” according to the report—and included plans like establishing a National Cardiac Arrest Registry and national cardiac arrest accreditation standards for hospitals.
The report highlighted schools as ideal hubs for CPR training given their centralized resources and ability to reach students from an array of socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, and endorsed partnerships between education departments and advocacy organizations to incorporate training into school curricula.
“Young adults are kind of in that sweet spot of being physically capable of CPR, but ... not being held back by made-up fears like lawsuits or catching diseases,” said Tyler Accardi, the director of the Student CPR program, which offers free online and hands-on CPR training to students and educators.
From his experience with the program, Accardi has found that students take to CPR education because it’s engaging and allows them to be active in the classroom. Often, students also end up fueling an interest in CPR among their parents, Accardi said.
Research has also shown that students who learn about CPR spread that knowledge to their parents and peers. A study published in the journal Resuscitation in 2010, for example, found that high school students trained themselves and 2.8 additional people on average when they were given CPR self-training DVD sets.
In addition to its overarching recommendations, the report provided tips to schools for overcoming cost and time restrictions associated with CPR training. They included measures like condensing the CPR curriculum and training teachers to administer the lessons instead of bringing in health-care instructors.
Cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 1,600 people suffering daily from it and nearly 600,000 cases annually, according to the report. About two-thirds of all cardiac arrest strikes happen outside of hospitals, and only 5.5 percent of those victims survive to hospital discharge.
And while countries such as Germany and Norway have 80 percent or more of the public trained in CPR, less than 3 percent of the U.S. population receives CPR training annually, the report states.
As of January 2015, 22 states required high schoolers to receive some form of CPR education in order to graduate, according to ProTrainings LLC, an emergency-skills training organization and the producer of the Student CPR program.
Infographic: ProTrainings LLC
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.