When policy impacts adoption
It took close to a decade for Italy’s recent AED laws to be passed.
Over that period, community-driven initiatives showed how widespread participation in CPR training and better access to AEDs (automated external defibrillators) translates into more lives saved.
Meanwhile, organisations like the European Resuscitation Council were relentless in lobbying government to act on the need to better protect people at-risk of cardiac arrest.
These lobbyists knew it would take changes in the law for Italians to have a better chance of surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Why is this? One reason is that while changing laws can be hard, sometimes convincing people to recognise the threat can be harder.
Recognising the threat
When Danish footballer, Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during a televised football match, the volume of Google searches for “defibrillation” over the following week increased by more than 500 per cent.
This event resulted in a wave of support for community sporting groups to install AEDs at their grounds, and drew unprecedented attention to the efforts of organisations like the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The shock of watching this young professional athlete experiencing cardiac arrest helped millions recognise the threat– something most had perhaps never considered.
What could have been a tragedy for Christian Eriksen, had an AED not been available, became a triumph for anyone trying to communicate the need to be prepared to individuals, communities and governments that were otherwise unaware of the issue.
For many, despite the fact cardiac arrest is one of the world’s biggest killers, it was the first time they’d experienced sudden cardiac arrest.
Raising public consciousness
We are awash with evidence that the first step to improving cardiac arrest survival is community awareness. Every successful cardiac arrest response program starts with increasing consciousness of the problem, and empowering individuals to be part of the solution.
This empowerment comes through training, practise, and access to tools – specifically, AEDs.
Christian Eriksen’s misfortune lent momentary strength to cardiac arrest education efforts around the world. When that strength ebbs as people’s memories fade, longer-lasting measures are required.
In the case of Italy’s new AED laws, regulation precedes widespread adoption.
Just as the presence of smoke alarms in homes escalate every time a government mandates them, so too does AED access accelerate when regulations make them compulsory.
RELATED ARTICLE: Improving public access to defibrillation
Innovation precedes regulation
Before regulation can influence adoption however, innovation needs to precede regulation.
One of the delays in Italy’s new laws was reluctance to allow people without formal medical training to use an AED. Concerns that user error could cause harm, resulted in policies that restricted access to tools that could otherwise have saved lives.
As AEDs become easier to use, lower cost and smarter, these perceived barriers to use decrease.
These technological advancements will pave the way for other jurisdictions to follow Italy’s lead, and recognise the value of empowering its people with training, tools – and above all, consciousness of the problem.