Know Your Numbers this World Heart Day

Note from John: For World Heart Day, I’ve asked my colleague Kathryn Taubert, PhD, FAHA, to write a guest blog post. Kathryn is our Vice President of Global Strategies working closely with our CEO, CMO, myself and other American Heart Association (AHA) senior leaders to collaborate and establish partnerships with international organizations to broaden the AHA’s support of and impact on global health. 


September 29 is designated as “World Heart Day”.  World Heart Day, an initiative of the World Heart Federation, is an opportunity for people across the globe to take part in the world’s biggest intervention against cardiovascular disease (CVD; including heart disease and stroke).  CVD is the number 1 cause of death globally.  More people die annually from CVD than from any other cause.  An estimated 17.5 million people died from CVD in 2012, which is 31% of all global deaths.

This year, the focus of World Heart Day is on creating heart healthy environments.  So what exactly does a heart healthy environment refer to?  It refers to environmental factors, such as clean air, that favorably influence heart health.  You may think there isn’t much you can do to change the environment, but in reality there are things to make it healthier.

For example, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement about 10 years ago concluding that exposure to air pollution contributes to cardiovascular illness and mortality. It is especially dangerous to the elderly or to people with pre-existing medical conditions. Environmental air pollution can come from traffic, factories, power generation, or wildfires. You may not feel as it you can influence these factors, but you can, for example, try to live some distance from polluting factories or heavily traveled highways.  However, you can have direct influence on one of the most common indoor sources of air pollution — smoking.  Smoking is a danger to both the smoker and to those nearby (“second-hand smoke”).  In fact, according to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills around 6 million people each year. More than 5 million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 deaths are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.  So if there is a smoker in your house, urge them to quit smoking, or at least to give up smoking while inside the house.  In some regions of the world, or even in parts of the US, there are not laws banning smoking in the workplace.  If you work in such an environment, talk to your employer about providing smoke free working areas or join in with colleagues to approach local governments.

WHD photo

In addition to improving environmental conditions, there are many personal actions you can take to improve your risk of CVD. The AHA My Life Check® assessment was designed with the goal of improved health by educating the public on how best to live. The measures of “Life’s Simple Seven” have one unique thing in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive to take and even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. They include:

  • Manage blood pressure
  • Control cholesterol
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Get active
  • Eat better
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking

This simple, seven step list has been developed to deliver on the hope we all have–to live a long, productive healthy life. Join others around the world who are committing to live a more heart-healthy lifestyle. Check your heart score and risk for cardiovascular disease at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/My-Life-Check—Lifes-Simple-7_UCM_471453_Article.jsp

As the World Heart Federation says, we should ensure that everyone has the chance to make healthy heart choices wherever they live, work and play. World Heart Day encourages us all to reduce our cardiovascular risk, and promotes a heart-healthy planet for those around us.

Happy World Heart Day!!

-Kathryn Taubert, PhD, FAHA


It is a Time to Act to improve Cardiac Arrests

More than ever, it is “a Time to Act.” More than 500,000 cardiac arrests occur annually in- and out-of-hospital in the United States and only about 10 percent of out-of-hospital victims survive.

Today, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a report entitled “Strategies to Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival: A Time to Act (2015),” calling for more national collaboration to create a culture of action. The American Heart Association supports the IOM’s report and recognizes the opportunity for AHA to continue our work to meaningfully improve outcomes for cardiac arrest.

We are already supporting the IOM’s recommendations to improve survival from cardiac arrest through a broad range of strategies, from CPR programs and advocacy initiatives to educate the public to quality improvement efforts to help hospitals improve delivery of care and survival from cardiac events.

The IOM report outlines eight recommendations to improve survival from sudden cardiac arrest.

  1. Establish a national cardiac arrest registry.
  2. Foster a culture of action through public awareness and training.
  3. Enhance the capabilities and performance of EMS systems.
  4. Set national accreditation standards related to cardiac arrest for hospitals and health care systems.
  5. Adopt continuous quality improvement programs.
  6. Accelerate research on pathophysiology, new therapies, and translation of science for cardiac arrest.
  7. Accelerate research on the evaluation and adoption of cardiac arrest therapies.
  8. Create a national cardiac arrest collaborative.

Five years ago we set some aggressive strategic goals to guide us in these efforts, based off of data from 2010:

  • By 2020, double all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival and dramatically increase in-hospital cardiac arrest survival for adult (double) and pediatric (50%) patients.
  • Double CPR bystander response rate, from 31% to 62%, by 2020.

At the halfway point, we’re already making some great headway toward our goals as survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest has already increased about 35% and bystander response rate has already increased by more than 45% according to the latest data. This new IOM report will help accelerate the AHA’s goal of doubling cardiac arrest survival, which saves an additional 50,000 cardiac arrest victims each year. We applaud the IOM for their work and know it will help us raise awareness of the issue of cardiac arrest and help save more lives.

In response to the IOM’s report, the American Heart Association today issued a special report outlining its bolstered commitment to improving survival from cardiac arrest. It includes:

  • Providing up to $5 million over 5 years to incentivize resuscitation data collection and sharing;
  • Pursuing philanthropic support for local and regional implementation opportunities to increase cardiac arrest survival by improving out-of-hospital and in-hospital systems of care;
  • Generating support to launch a resuscitation research network; and
  • Co-sponsoring a national cardiac arrest summit to help create a national cardiac arrest collaborative to identify common goals to improve survival.

For more than 40 years, we have produced Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) and through promoting the principles of the chain of survival – early recognition and activation of EMS, early CPR, early defibrillation and early access to emergency medical care – have contributed to saving hundreds of thousands of lives around the world over the past fifty years. We commend this report and will continue training millions of lifesavers every year to educate them on the importance of cardiac arrest.

Click here for more information on the IOM report and the American Heart Association’s responsive Special Report.

national responsibility


The Laerdal Alliance – Celebrating 10 Years

Today I am proud to celebrate the past 10 years of our formal strategic relationship with Laerdal Medical, formed from the American Heart Association’s (AHA) need to enter the digital and self-directed learning space. Our collaboration has created innovative and mission advancing solutions that neither organization could have accomplished alone.

As AHA’s first “strategic relationship” with a for-profit company, together we have shown the tremendous innovative potential of these types of alliances. Our shared vision to solve unmet needs in emergency cardiovascular care training through innovation has, no doubt, saved countless lives.

The foundation of the relationship and focus on self-directed learning has remained consistent; however, we have made great strides at the strategic and operational levels, having evolved and matured dramatically to exceed our mission goals.

Several of our most significant innovations include HeartCode®, CPR Anytime®, RQI™ and the CPR in Schools Training Kit, and we have expanded to combine self-directed learning and international cooperation in emerging markets like China and India with programs like Saving Children’s Lives.

Our joint research and development activities around new methods and solutions are helping to ensure healthcare providers develop and maintain lifesaving skill competencies around the world.

The purpose of the AHA and Laerdal Alliance remains unwavering – focus on self-directed learning, international cooperation and research, and development of innovative solutions to drive positive health outcomes and our 2020 impact goals.

Here are a few pictures from today’s event:

Tore Laerdal discusses the early days.

Tore Laerdal discusses the early days.


Tore Laerdal and I reflecting on the Alliance.



Unprecedented Memorandum of Cooperation with China

While death rates in the United States are declining, 38 million people die from noncommunicable diseases (NCD) globally, with cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) remaining the leading cause of death in the world. As part of our commitment to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke around the world, the American Heart Association (AHA) today signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to advance CPR training and cardiovascular science sharing in the world’s most populous country. This effort marks a significant step forward in advancing the World Health Assembly’s goal of a 25 percent reduction in premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 2025.

The agreement intends to accelerate cooperation in three areas important to reducing the global burden of NCD.

  1. CPR training and awareness initiatives to train people how to use CPR to save the life of someone experiencing cardiac arrest. With cardiac arrest, seconds count; immediate CPR from a bystander can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.
  2. Physician exchange to expand opportunities to convene researchers, healthcare providers, epidemiologists and public health specialists from the United States and the People’s Republic of China. The joint purpose is to share ideas, develop fellowship and advance programs that will improve systems of care, patient outcomes and overall health and wellness in both countries.
  3. Cardiovascular science engagement opportunities will expand AHA’s global science-sharing efforts through AHA annual meetings, joint science sessions at other countries’ cardiology societies, and local science meetings to regularly share the best in science with leading scientists, researchers, and practitioners from the PRC and the United States.

This cooperative agreement offers another example of how we are working to significantly impact global health and further our efforts to create a world of lifesavers.  We are the only organization that provides multi-level first aid, CPR and advanced lifesaving training in more than 100 countries. Our resuscitation leadership combined with our experience in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease makes us uniquely positioned to meet this health challenge working with MOST.

Consider this:

  • NCDs are China’s Number One Health Threat
  • NCDs like diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, and cancer, kill more people globally and in China than infectious diseases.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs account for 70 percent of all deaths globally; however, NCDs are estimated to account for 87 percent of total deaths in China.
  • Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths and cardiovascular diseases specifically account for 45 percent of total deaths in China.
  • The population is aging in China, the world’s most populous country, and NCDs are becoming more common.
  • Growing urbanization is one of the socioeconomic risks for NCDs. China’s urban population of more than 680 million people outnumbered its rural population for the first time in January, 2012.
  • According to the WHO in 2011, 47 percent of adult males smoked tobacco in China.

“The knowledge to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke in one country can benefit people in many other countries. By training more people in CPR, more lives can be saved. More than 16 million people are trained in AHA First Aid, CPR or Advanced Life Support programs each year. Even if just a small percentage of the Chinese population learns CPR, that would result in millions more lifesavers in the world, who are prepared and ready to act in a cardiac arrest emergency,” said Gordon F. Tomaselli, MD, past president of the American Heart Association and director of the Division of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Tomaselli is one of the AHA volunteer representative for the U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE).

The memorandum of understanding agreement was signed today at a celebratory event at the Mayflower Renaissance in Washington, D.C. after the U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE). With the signing of the MOU, the AHA and MOST will now work together to create specific implementation plans for each of the three areas of the cooperative agreement.

I hope you are as excited as I am about this opportunity to create more lifesavers around the world. Check out some photos from today’s event below.







Celebrating National CPR & AED Awareness Week

Each year, we celebrate National CPR & AED Awareness Week during the first week of June. We discuss the importance of learning CPR and the use of an AED throughout the year, but from June 1-7 we really step up our efforts while we own the spotlight. Five years ago we set some aggressive strategic goals to guide us in these efforts, based off of data from 2010:

  • By 2020, double all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival and dramatically increase in-hospital cardiac arrest survival for adult (double) and pediatric (50%) patients.
  • Double CPR bystander response rate, from 31% to 62%, by 2020.

By achieving these goals we will save an additional 50,000 lives each year in the United States. At the halfway point, we’re already making some great headway toward our goals as survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest has already increased about 35% and bystander response rate has already increased by more than 45% according to the latest data.

One initiative we credit for this increase is CPR in Schools. We believe CPR training for America’s youth will be one of the best solutions to saving more lives in the long-term. CPR in Schools can reduce disparities in CPR and create the next generation of lifesavers by teaching students CPR before they graduate. Currently, 22 states have CPR legislation signed into law, adding more than 1 million trained Americans in our communities every year.

Spencer Hamilton is one of those students that was able to learn CPR in high school and become a lifesaver. This is his story:

Spencer Hamilton, a senior at Randleman High School, was stocking the bread at the grocery store where he worked when a customer asked him if he saw a lady that had passed out. The manager then called the employees to the front and asked if anyone knew CPR. Spencer had been trained in CPR two months earlier in his Health Occupation Science Class and said he knew CPR. He immediately started doing CPR and at first, he didn’t think it was working. Then after a couple of minutes, the lady started coughing and came back to consciousness. EMS arrived immediately after and took her to the hospital. Spencer now feels relieved and it makes him feel good he was able to help this woman.

Spencer believes people should learn CPR because you never know when you are going to need it. For him, it was just a normal day at work and then he needed it.

Diana Graves, a nurse that helped teach the Health Occupation Science class when he learned CPR, is very proud Spencer was able to help this woman.

This CPR Week, take a moment to learn how our CPR in Schools initiative is an integral part of saving more lives and increasing bystander CPR across all our communities. As our young men and women are stepping up to learn Hands-Only CPR, we encourage you to do the same. Take a minute to learn Hands-Only CPR at heart.org/handsonlycpr.

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National EMS Week from a Mother’s Perspective

Note from John: First responders are key links in the Chain of Survival, and we celebrate this National EMS Week by thanking all of the wonderful emergency medical professionals for their tireless dedication, time and passion. This week is especially meaningful for Lucy Goulet, who not only can thank her son Steven for being an EMT, but also thank the nurse that gave him CPR and saved his life 9 years ago. I’ve asked Lucy to write a guest blog post to share her story with my readers so we can all acknowledge the importance of these unsung heroes.

On November 2nd, 2006, my son, Steven, 26 at the time, went out for a beer after work. After a short time, he put his head down on the bar and his friends couldn’t wake him up. His heart had stopped. They began yelling for help and called 911. Luckily, a nurse, Carol Petrin, had gotten off her shift early that night and was already there with friends. She immediately started doing CPR. At the same time one of my son’s friends had contacted us only saying that he had passed out and to come to the club they were at.

The nurse continued CPR but was getting tired and decided to quickly teach the patrons in the bar CPR and so they could continue while she took a breather. The police started doing CPR before EMS arrived and then EMS took over as soon as they got there.

My husband and I rushed to the club, but almost 15 minutes had passed. When we arrived we found paramedics over my son doing CPR and injecting his heart with medication to try to revive him. I immediately thought it was too late, too much time had passed. They were able to get a heartbeat after 22 minutes. He has since been diagnosed with Brugada Syndrome and has a permanent defibrillator and pace maker.

Steven is now working as an Emergency Medical Technician, or an EMT. He has a deep interest on cardiac conditions and wants to help save others like the EMS and first responders saved him that fateful night. Steven became an Emergency Medical Technician because he wanted to give back after this experience and save someone else’s life. He believes that if everyone knew CPR, it would save many people.

Lucy believes people should learn the correct way to do CPR because that is what saved her son. If the nurse hadn’t been there and hadn’t known how to do CPR, Lucy thinks Steven might not have survived – but he did and also did not suffer any brain damage.

Lucy wants to thank nurses and EMS Professionals everywhere for saving lives like her son Steven. Thank a first responder today by sharing our Vine below, and remind them we appreciate them for all they do.


Keeping Our Tune with New Hands-Only CPR Video

What do the American Heart Association, Anthem Foundation and Street Corner Symphony all have in common? They want you to #keepthebeat and learn Hands-Only CPR, a capella style!

The scary statistic is that 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they are afraid of hurting the victim. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. It only takes a minute to learn Hands-Only CPR and with 70 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happening at home, the life you save is likely to be someone you know and love.

With funding from the Anthem Foundation, the American Heart Association is debuting a new Hands-Only CPR music-based training video, designed to showcase the simplicity and lifesaving benefits of Hands-Only CPR. The video features the unique sounds of the wildly-talented a capella group, Street Corner Symphony, and is available now at www.heart.org/handsonlycpr. Check it out here:

“For the past three years, we’ve been working closely with the American Heart Association to help educate people about Hands-Only CPR. To date, we’ve trained more than three million people in this lifesaving skill with the goal of preparing people to save the lives of perfect strangers, or those they love most,” said Lance Chrisman, Executive Director, Anthem Foundation.

Hands-Only CPR has just two easy steps: If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, (1) Call 9-1-1; and (2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”

What are you waiting for? Visit heart.org/handsonlycpr and share our video with your friends to #keepthebeat and learn how to help save a life!


Kiosk Training Credited for Lifesaving CPR

About two years ago, we wrapped up a test pilot of our first Hands-Only CPR kiosk and installed it at DFW Airport in Terminal C, Gate 7. Since then, about 17,000 people have used it to learn this potentially lifesaving technique.

One such individual was 21-year-old college student Matthew Lickenbrock, who spotted the kiosk last month during a three-hour layover at the airport. “I went over just to check it out and maybe learn something. I actually had never learned CPR,” said Lickenbrock, an engineering major at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Lickenbrock completed the program three times over the course of about 15 minutes, scoring a perfect 100 on the final attempt.

AHA Hands-Only CPR kiosk at DFW Airport

AHA Hands-Only CPR kiosk at DFW Airport

Two days later he was driving to an evening class when he saw a flash of lightning that appeared to hit the engineering building where he was headed. Pulling into the parking lot, he saw a young man face down on the ground. It was 23-year-old Sean Ferguson, a marketing major who had been struck by lightning as he walked home from an on-campus meeting, according to university officials. He wasn’t breathing or moving.

Adjunct professor Jamie Obermeyer helped Lickenbrock carefully roll Ferguson onto his back and asked him if he knew CPR. “From then it was kind of a blur — a lot of adrenaline,” said Lickenbrock. “[I was thinking] what did I do two days ago at the kiosk? 100 beats per minute, compress two inches down.”

After a few minutes, Lickenbrock was relieved by Steven Pope, a nurse anesthetist who had been at the nearby recreation center. Pope soon detected a pulse. Lickenbrock’s quick action saved Ferguson’s life.

After nearly five weeks, Ferguson was released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. He plans to return to school in the fall and graduate in December.

“No one ever thinks they’ll use CPR,” Lickenbrock said. “You learn it but hope you don’t need to use it.” Lickenbrock said the CPR kiosk gave him confidence to act during the emergency. “It gave me the little bit of training I needed to know how to actually perform CPR,” he said.

Matthew Lickenbrock

Matthew Lickenbrock

As far as we know, this is the first story of a lifesaving event that we can attribute directly to our kiosk. “It’s thrilling to know a life was saved and to see a testimonial of the efficacy of this type of training methodology. The initial premise of the kiosk was to test the effectiveness of brief and engaging ‘self-directed’ learning sessions with immediate feedback on one’s performance and to see if more people can be reached via public settings, such as an airport,” said Merrilee Sweet, member of the AHA Community Market team that developed the kiosk.

Through a grant from Anthem Foundation, seven additional training kiosks will be installed in public places by the end of 2015, ready to train thousands of additional people and potentially save more lives.

I’d like to personally thank Matthew for his curiosity to train on the kiosk and more importantly – for acting fast and utilizing the skills he learned to save a life. We also wish Sean and his family the best as he continues his recovery and completes his education.


Saving Lives is the Heart of our Mission

Our mission at the American Heart Association is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and one way we do that is to raise awareness about the importance of learning CPR. Our stand is that everyone should learn CPR and be prepared to save a life in the face of a cardiac event.

We work diligently to train the next generation of lifesavers, and that means reaching our audiences where they live, work, play and pray. While the use of CPR dates back to 1740 when the Paris Academy of Sciences officially recommended mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for drowning victims, we’ve continually evolved to be more innovative with our coursework, teaching methods and public outreach.

For example, we’ve been leading the effort to encourage bystanders to administer Hands-Only CPR if they witness a cardiac arrest. Our research tells us that chest compressions alone for an adult or teenager victim is better than no action taken – in fact, you can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival by performing Hands-Only CPR. In order to create a world of lifesavers, we’ve led the charge to require CPR training in schools around the country. We’ve been evolving from printed materials to electronic formats so that our science is quickly and accurately disseminated. Our brand-new RQI program (see video below) is improving patient outcomes with quarterly, quality CPR training for healthcare professionals. We’ve expanded our global outreach to help culturally-diverse audiences with our proven resuscitation research.

It’s a very exciting time for the American Heart Association, and I’m proud to say we are only just getting started.

We are extremely grateful for this recent coverage by Forbes magazine that talks about our organization’s transformation as a business to further our mission of saving lives. I encourage you to read it here and share amongst your family and friends: http://onforb.es/1KY8bmA


Our Heartfelt Thanks This National Nurses Week

Nurses don’t necessarily have the extra time, but they do have extra big hearts. That’s why we’re so thankful for the hard work and dedication of nurses working tirelessly to improve patient outcomes. CPR saves lives, and nurses have an instrumental role in the chain of survival by providing lifesaving CPR daily. We can’t say it enough – thank you to all nurses for everything you do.

So, for my blog post we wanted to talk to a few nurses to find out what makes them passionate about what they do and why they think people should learn CPR:

+ Jacqueline Barrowitz, RN, CPN in the Short Stay Unit in the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth:

“I decided I wanted to be a nurse in 1970 when I watched an ER doctor put stitches in my arm. I am able to incorporate my skills with compassion and a healing touch to serve my pediatric patients and their parents in a fulfilling way.”

 “When I was a nursing student I was so excited to learn CPR and to know that I could possibly save a life. Over the years, the techniques have changed and improved – but the goal of saving lives is the same.  Perhaps someday, with the help of the American Heart Association, 100% of Americans will learn how to save a life.”

+ Yasmeen Khedery, RN, BSN in the Medical/Surgery Department at Texas Health Resources HEB

“Ever since I can remember, I loved to take care of, nurture, and teach people. Nursing is a profession that requires you to use your mind to promote health and safety, and your heart for healing and emotional support. It’s unlike any other job, you have so many roles with one title.”

 “CPR is a vital skill that can save someone’s life, it’s that simple! And the fact is that you never know when you may need it, but you will be so thankful in the case you ever have to use it. If you have the right education and the situation arises you will be more confident knowing you actually know what to do.”

+ Charissa Parker, RN, BSN in the Emergency Department at Baylor, Scott & White at Carrollton

“I became a nurse because it encompasses everything I love to do: learn, teach, and to care. It’s always challenging me which makes me love my job that much more. I am currently an emergency room registered nurse so CPR is quite important in my job. Everyone should learn CPR because it’s a key component to possibly giving someone another day to live. It’s known that early intervention of basic CPR by everyday civilians has saved numerous lives since they are the first to respond- not just us!”

Wow! What courageous nurses we have out there working hard every day to save you and your loved ones! We created this “Thank You” Vine (below) to recognize all of the wonderful nurses around the world. Do your part and say “Thank You” to a nurse this week and tell them how much you appreciate everything they do!