National CPR-AED Awareness Week - A Reminder That We Can Save More Lives

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

National CPR-AED Awareness Week is a great time to remind ourselves that cardiac arrest is a serious healthcare emergency for which everyone in healthcare needs to be prepared. Importantly, our response to cardiac arrest is something that we can improve, so that more people survive it.

To underscore the importance of readiness and preparation, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened a group of experts to study cardiac arrest and find ways to improve it. In Strategies to Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival: A Time to Act, the committee identifies ways to improve rates of survival without disability, as well as how to improve the quality of care for this serious health threat.

What Is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops working, for multiple and various reasons, resulting in a sudden loss of consciousness and collapse.

Annually, as many as 600,000 people in the United States experience cardiac arrest. Using conservative estimates, it has been been identified in some quarters[GL1]  as the third leading cause of U.S. deaths, following cancer and heart disease. It is necessary to think in terms that cardiac arrest treatment is a very significant community issue—local resources and personnel must provide appropriate, high-quality care to save the life of a community member.  The time between the beginning of an arrest and the provision of care is fundamental; that this time is as short as possible is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of death or cardiac arrest-related disability. Specific actions can be implemented now to decrease this time, and recent advances in science could lead to new discoveries in the causes of, and treat­ments for, cardiac arrest.

What Needs to Change about Cardiac Arrest?

Some advanced communities in the United States have reported survival rates of more than 60 percent for specific types of cardiac arrest, helping us to see that saving more lives is possible. These communities, as well as other international examples, offer insights about public health infrastructures and organized EMS and health system responses that can contribute to better cardiac arrest outcomes. Some EMS and health systems have adopted continuous quality improvement initiatives, which have led to more proactive and responsive care models, resulting in higher-quality care and better overall outcomes.

A Response from the AHA

The American Heart Association responded to this report. Some of the highlights of “The American Heart Association Response to the 2015 Institute of Medicine Report on Strategies to Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival” include:

  • For more than 40 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) has produced Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) and through promoting the principles of the chain of survival – early recognition and activation of emergency medical services (EMS), early CPR, early defibrillation, and early access to emergency medical care – have contributed to saving hundreds of thousands of lives around the world over the past 50 years. Despite this success, the full lifesaving potential of an optimized system of care remains elusive in most communities.


  • However, to truly save as many lives as possible it will take additional novel and innovative approaches to improve outcomes as well as an intense commitment, dedication and collaboration of countless stakeholders and partners at a national, state and local level.


  • The impartial, thoughtful expert opinion of the IOM-appointed panel of experts lends additional depth and strength to all interested stakeholders’ efforts to improve resuscitation outcomes, and truly is a call to accelerate and coordinate these efforts. 

Click here to learn more about improving resuscitation.

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