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St. Michael’s researchers to teach innovative CPR course to Toronto-area high schools

Researchers led by St. Michael’s Hospital will be teaching a quick, inexpensive method of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to some Toronto-area high school students this fall.

Toronto, November 4, 2010

Dr. Laurie Morrison (left) believes CPR training should begin in school. Dr. Laurie Morrison (left) believes CPR training should begin in school.

Rescu, a research group headed by Dr. Laurie Morrison, received $50,000 from the American Heart Association and Norway’s Laerdal Foundation for Acute Medicine to teach an innovative CPR course that takes only 22 minutes, uses an instructional DVD and a small inflatable mannequin and can be taught almost anywhere. Students will also learn how to use an automated external defibrillator.

The researchers hope the pilot program will be expanded to all high schools in Ontario and that students will teach this CPR method to friends and relatives, thereby raising survival rates of people who suffer heart attacks outside of hospitals.

CPR can quadruple survival rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and the use of an AED can save even more lives. Despite this, the bystander CPR rate has remained low and unchanged for the past decade. Toronto has one of the lowest rates in the world of bystanders willing and able to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. It also has one of the lowest rates of AED use in Canada.

Only 51 per cent of Toronto high schools teach CPR, even though it is part of the Grade 9 curriculum. Only six per cent of high schools train students to use an AED, which is found in less than half the schools.

“It is clear that the current CPR and AED training strategies need to be evaluated and changed in order for students to become the next generation of responsible citizens willing and ready to perform bystander CPR,” Morrison said.

She said the low CPR training rates in schools may reflect the fact that the four hours of instruction competes for time in the busy curriculum. In addition, private schools do not have any funding to provide instruction. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s CPR Anytime kit costs only $35 each.

The pilot project initially involves about 250 students at six schools in Toronto, Burlington and Oakville. The first session will take place on Nov. 23. Rescu is partnering in this project with researchers from the University of Toronto and a number of not-for-profit organizations including The Hospital for Sick Children, Sunnybrook-Osler Centre for Prehospital Care, Safe Communities Canada, the Toronto Paramedics Association, Halton Region Emergency Medical Services, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Rescu is part of the Rescue Outcomes Consortium, a large, multinational research collaboration of 10 sites across the United States and Canada, studying how promising new tools and treatments can improve survival rates among people who suffer cardiac arrest or life-threatening traumatic injury.