Jennifer Litchman-Green, vice president of Community Impact at the American Heart Association in Philadelphia, demonstrates chest compressions on a CPR training manikin.
Thanks to advocates like the American Heart Association, significantly more people will be trained in saving a life
Making PA Schools CPR Ready
Pennsylvania just became the 39th state to require Hands-Only CPR training in schools. The new law is a major victory for CPR Ready, a local effort to increase the number of people who know how to react in a cardiac emergency.
Teaching students life-saving techniques may seem like a no-brainer. But a lot of work and years of advocacy went into enacting this change in Pennsylvania schools. Advocates of the bill worked tirelessly to convince lawmakers and educators that this bill was sustainable and should be passed.
Getting CPR in schools has been a priority throughout Jennifer Litchman-Green’s career at the American Heart Association (AHA).
“Philadelphia’s bystander CPR rate is much lower than in other large cities across the U.S.,” she said. “It’s a big challenge, but it’s also an opportunity for us to have a big impact.”
Jennifer credits the community for rallying together to get the job done.
“Our volunteers, community partners, and network of survivors have been really supportive,” Jennifer said. “We worked for several years to get this passed, which makes it even more meaningful.”
Moving Survivor Story Helps Get Bill Passed
Survivor stories have been an important tool in advocating for CPR training in schools. In the years since she had a cardiac arrest, Stephanie Austin has become a powerful ally of CPR Ready’s mission. She has shared her story both locally and nationally.
“There are a lot of things I can’t do anymore, but this is something I can do. I can advocate for this. I can try to inspire and motivate people. I can use my voice and the platform I’m fortunate enough to have through the American Heart Association,” said Stephanie.
Stephanie was 35 years old when she suffered a cardiac arrest in her sleep. Her husband woke up to find her unresponsive. Thankfully, he knew what to do.
The minutes after a sudden cardiac arrest can mean the difference between life and death. When the heart stops beating, blood flow to the brain and other vital organs stops with it. Calling 9-1-1, then pushing hard and fast at the center of the chest can keep the person alive until help arrives.
Only ten percent of people like Stephanie, who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, live to tell the story.
“This is why we needed this bill passed. We need more people that are capable and able to do what everybody in a hospital knows to do,” she said. “That’s CPR.”
To learn more about Stephanie’s story, watch her Faces of Heart video.
Providing Training Through Community Partnerships
CPR Ready partners including the American Heart Association and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have been working with the Philadelphia School District for years to provide resources and access to CPR training. The American Heart Association has fundraised to provide over 130 CPR training kits to schools that include a video and full curriculum.
CPR Ready partners will reach many more students now that the training is mandated by law.
“The new law provides flexibility in how schools train students,” said Jennifer. “It encourages schools to partner with outside organizations to help with training and materials at little to no cost.”
This month, AHA will attend the Philadelphia School District’s Health and Physical Education professional development day and host a train the trainer session. The session will give school faculty the tools they need to train students district-wide.
Trainings should provide a hands-on experience for students using manikins to practice quality chest compressions.
“When people get that hands-on training experience, that will come back to you,” said Stephanie. “Your body remembers how to move.”
She believes fear is what keeps people from acting in an emergency, and that the trainings will help eliminate that barrier.
“A 30-minute training can help people feel less afraid. If a person is unresponsive and not breathing, you need to do CPR,” she said. “You can’t make someone more dead.”
“I’m very hopeful that now that this bill is passed we’ll see the survival rate go up in our area,” she continued. “There’s no question that lives are going to be saved because of it.”