Playing it HeartSafe

Playing it HeartSafe

The less-than 1 per cent global survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest shows how hard it is to be prepared for the worst.  Is playing it HeartSafe an option for people and communities in light of these dismal statistics?

Paramedic and Monash University researcher, Brian Haskins talked to us about the challenges emergency medical services (EMS) face trying to respond to every emergency.

We have also recently seen just how quickly overstretched emergency services can be overwhelmed in even the most sophisticated health systems.

These are examples of the folly of assuming help will always be at hand when things go wrong.

Many communities have realised this, and done something about it.

We recently interviewed South Australian MP Frank Pangallo about his efforts to establish his as Australia’s first HeartSafe State.  He gave the example of Kangaroo Island, Australia’s first HeartSafe community.

What’s a HeartSafe community?

HeartSafe was conceptualised by David Hiltz and Michael Aires in Massachusetts in the US in 2002, in response for the lack of preparedness of the US health system to treat sudden cardiac arrests.

The idea was to strengthen the Chain of Survival by empowering community first responders to administer CPR and defibrillation, using a known network of public access AEDs (automated external defibrillators).

There’s no permission required to become a HeartSafe community.  It is, in effect, freeware – helping communities literally take their lives into their own hands.

Examples of elements of a HeartSafe community include:

CPR training is regularly available, and a significant proportion of the population maintains CPR certification.

Public access defibrillation is readily available, via a mapped network of AEDs in public areas, businesses, streets and homes.

Early recognition and awareness are trained into the community, supported by regular public-awareness campaigns.

Support and integration from community health services is in-place.  Local health professionals are involved in community awareness-raising and consultation.

Infrastructure for providing advanced life support has been established, from emergency medical services (EMS) through to hospital and post-arrest care.  Preventative care measures and campaigns are also in-place.

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island with a population around 5,000.

This community took inspiration from Seattle, where up to 64 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients survive to hospital discharge.  The people of Kangaroo Island recognised that it was grassroot community initiatives that made this possible in Seattle.

Posts on the link above tells the story of a community constantly building on its public access defibrillator network.  CPR training sessions are conducted regularly, which has led to around 25 per cent of the community becoming CPR certified.

According to Frank Pangallo, these efforts have already saved several lives on Kangaroo Island.

The Kangaroo Island sudden cardiac arrest survival rate is higher than can normally be expected of a regional community, thanks to these initiatives.

It has taken forward-thinking, collaboration and investment by businesses, families and friendship groups, and individuals to make their community HeartSafe.

Kangaroo Island may have been inspired by Seattle, yet it has set a fresh example for other similar communities around the world.