Putting Heart-Safe program in the “heart” of the Commonwealth

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillation (AED) training may be the most valuable lessons a student can learn – how to save the life of a loved one, teacher or friend by performing the simple steps of CPR. This method can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

With this in mind, I proposed to the Worcester School Committee that the Worcester Public Schools start a course in CPR/AED training. With the support of Dr. Leonard Morse, Worcester Commissioner of Public Health, Mr. Derek Brindisi, acting director of public pealth in Worcester, and Colleen O’Brien, director of athletics, health and physical education, a plan was put forth in our schools for the first time.

Through the efforts of Dr. Morse, a grant of $15,000 was obtained from the Hoche-Scofield Foundation. The Worcester Department of Public Health partnered with the Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Fire Department to begin a voluntary CPR/AED certification program for Worcester’s senior high school students – the class of 2009.

In preparation, 40 high school teachers and nurses were trained as certified core faculty to join the members of the Worcester Fire Department in teaching and certifying the students. The program was launched in September of 2008. Since then, 510 Worcester public school students have been certified in CPR/AED use, along with 218 staff members.

This success is important for another reason: The American Heart Association designated Worcester a “HeartSafe” community in May of 2004. In response to this distinction, the Division of Public Health felt an increased responsibility to work on making this community HeartSafe. During those first few years, with assistance from summer college interns, the City of Worcester established a Central Registry of Automated External Defibrillators (AED), focusing on their ready availability at key locations. The registry is supported by a response team certified in CPR and AED , offering referral for their technical maintenance. Presently, there are 193 AED’s in the city (exclusive of hospitals), with their locations available to emergency response personnel on the City’s Intranet.

So powerful is the impact of CPR/AED training that there is a movement by State Representative Haddad and State Senator Baddou to require schools in Massachusetts to instruct all of our students to be certified in CPR/AED as a requirement for high school graduation. There are several school districts across the nation that have requirements for all of its students (i.e. Washington). As community members and parents, we should be very proud of our program and the students who volunteered to be part of this life-saving course. Dr. Morse and others are to be congratulated for pursuing the necessary funds for the program. Dr. Morse will continue to seek grant money for this coming year.

Our “HeartSafe” community has added this additional resource, and our schools have taught students a life-long skill. Whatever path they travel upon, they will be able responders. It is essential that we continue to expand our program in the coming years; the leading cause of death in America is sudden cardiac arrest. As a city, it’s reassuring to know that we have a small army out there with the needed skills of CPR!

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