How do you cut death rates 17%?

27 Oct

The new CPR guidelines are out with all sorts of fanfare and media coverage. Great news and lots of new research and discussion over a critical tool that could save some of the 250,000 people who die of heart disease each year. But why not the same media focus on preventing the deaths in the first place?  How about this little-seen article with the staggering headline: Analyses: Heart Attack rates fall 17% after smokingbans enacted. (that was within one year and only with public smoking bans).

You all know my feelings about CPR – everyone should learn CPR, period. I think we need a serious re-think on our priorities though, especially when there is limited funding everywhere. Educating and preventing problems isn’t glamorous. It’s like being a parent – a long-term commitment, frequently involving nudging unwilling recipients, not always fun, but with real, positive, long-term outcomes. Plenty of research to support this very unglamorous, non-headline-grabbing methodology.  Educate boys and girl sand civil war decreases, poverty levels drop, economic prosperity increases.

What would happen if teaching water safety and swimming to children were mandatory?  Would the death rates from drowning drop 17% or more in a year?  I think so.  CPR is a crucial tool to save a life, but shouldn’t our focus be on not needing the tool in the firstplace?



12 Responses to “How do you cut death rates 17%?”

  1. Stefanie October 27, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    Well said!! btw – congrats on your new site design 🙂

    • rebeccasavekids October 28, 2010 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks Stefanie! And look for some more changes in the next few weeks 🙂

  2. John Oliver October 28, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    I think you’re spot on here.

    Politicians, businesses, and individuals are far too reactionary. If we spent more time focusing on preventative measures we’d all be safer, happier, and more efficient.

    Your post reminded me of a story I read a while ago about Cornell University’s mandatory swim test ( All students must pass the test before graduation. Wouldn’t it be great if this was the case for high school students? Or grade schoolers?

    Our best bet is to continue to share stories that highlight just how bad things are when we use a wait-and-see attitude. You’re doing a great thing with this blog. Keep up the good work!

    – John

    • rebeccasavekids October 28, 2010 at 11:40 am #

      Thanks John for your comment and an especially heartfelt thanks to your business mission – providing insurance to YMCAs. I know all too well that putting the world ‘child’ and ‘drowning’ in the same sentence poses a huge liability risk, and yet if we don’t provide our children with the chance to safely learn how to be safe, to be active, to truly live fully in our world we are depriving them one of the greatest joys and benefits in their lives.

  3. Liam October 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Definitely well said… my infant swimming scares the socks off of me. A good, simple set of rules to follow helps a lot.

    • rebeccasavekids October 30, 2010 at 9:45 am #

      The amazing thing is that if you are in the water with an infant, they are usually pretty comfortable (though I hasten to add NOT water safe/drown-proof). It’s only as they reach around one that they start to associate water with fear. The earlier you can start teaching them how to have fun safely, more likely they will grow up enjoying the water AND understanding their limitations around water.

  4. Beverly M. Payton, M.A., APR October 30, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Excellent post Rebecca. The high school my kids graduated from required that all students pass the swim test before graduating. But some parents protested this “non academic” requirement a few years ago and it was eventually abandoned. Too bad our society doesn’t view swimming and aquatic skills as the vital life skills they really are.

    • rebeccasavekids October 30, 2010 at 9:43 am #

      I agree Beverly, so many schools focus on getting kids into university that they forget that teaching teenagers (and all children) life skills is as important. I’d love to see every school require swimming proficiency as a graduation requirement.

  5. Tomas Leclerc November 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Rebecca, this topic is way long overdue, and it is still in discussion in the field. Many years ago swimming was mandatory for may schools, universities, and of course that has decreased throughout the years. It has always been a requirement for the various military branches too. Today, it is still required as components of some physical education programs in some parts of this country at different school levels.

    For instance, between 2002-2008 (not too long ago) I taught at at Alabama A&M University, a Historically Black College University (Known as the HBCU system). Do you know that in the physical education dept., for the teaching certification program/track (to become a P.E. teacher), both Beginning Swimming and Intermediate Swimming classes were required (passed with “C” or better). You have a population out there (check research coming out on minorities and swimming past few years and older) that once they have taken swimming lessons for 2 weeks (those who really do) as a child, will never swim again or take swim lessons, until they show up at my pool as college kids because swimming is a requirement for their degree. Can you believe that!!
    So here we are with a huge gap, and whether minority related or not, to me is a global need, because now these students dreams are going to be compromised and perhaps not fulfilled because swimming is required and they don’t know how to swim. It’s funny how is it that they go through high school not knowing this information, not to mention there is no swimming, so they have no time to prepare.

    Imagine my case scenario of the challenge of having an average of 75 students per semester, plus 50 during the summer for 6 years each year, trying to make it work!! I am sure there are many others experiencing similar problems today. My roots are physical education and I will always be an advocate for incorporating swimming. But there are so many variables in my experience(including accreditation requirements, funding, etc), that it does require an effort from all angles in order to be successful.

    Great post!!

  6. Rebecca Wear Robinson November 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    I would love to have swimming and basic water safety recognized as a requirement for all children in this country (and other countries). Ideally we would start teaching water safety to children as young as one. Why not have aquatics specialists go to preschools the way the firefighters and police do to teach about fire, traffic and personal safety?

    • tommecrow November 19, 2013 at 10:52 am #

      Hi Rebecca, I just uploaded an article in a blog post about the difficulties of running CPR programmes in low-income settings.

      Our conclusion is that current CPR guidelines are unsuitable for the low-resource environment, and urgent recommendations need to be made to keep responders safe in an emergency.

      • Rebecca Wear Robinson November 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

        Tom – excellent and I’ll promote in other areas and also send to a friend who is a leading expert on CPR instructions/education here in the States. Thank you!

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