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Grants Aim to Improve Cardiac Emergency Preparedness in Georgia

More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur each year in the United States. Globally, cardiac arrest claims more lives than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms and house fires combined. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving CPR from someone nearby. CPR can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival if performed right away. In January 2023, Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills suffered an on-field cardiac arrest incident during an NFL game. The lifesaving use of CPR and an AED quickly led to a national dialogue and action plans regarding emergency preparedness in sports.

In 2023, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation awarded a combined total of $600,000 in grants to the American Heart Association, Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to support a three-pronged approach to improving cardiac emergency preparedness in Georgia.

The foundation granted $250,000 to the American Heart Association (AHA) to support lifesaving CPR education through the Nation of Lifesavers program. The goal of the program is to turn bystanders into lifesavers, so that in the time of cardiac emergency anyone, anywhere is prepared and empowered to provide CPR. In partnership with the foundation and the Atlanta Falcons, the AHA will provide training to Atlanta-area community members and organizations, fans and Falcons staff on CPR and First Aid preparedness during a cardiac emergency. The AHA will facilitate community activations and training to put more qualified lifesavers in communities around greater Atlanta by implementing two large-scale CPR community empowerment events; distributing 30 CPR training kits to schools and youth sports and community groups throughout Atlanta; and identifying six community organizations to establish Cardiac Emergency Response Plans and provide AEDs and CPR kits.

“What we know is that over 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen every year and more than 90% of those that go into cardiac arrest do not survive. The power is in our hands to change this,” said Carla Smith, region senior vice president and executive director of the Metro Atlanta American Heart Association. “Increasing the number of bystanders that are equipped with the tools needed to respond in the event of a cardiac emergency through CPR and AED use could save the life of a family member, friend, neighbor or stranger. Through the collaboration with the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, we will continue to be relentless in our efforts to extend the chain of survival across metro Atlanta and build a Nation of Lifesavers.”

A $250,000 grant was awarded to Emory University to support the launch of the CPR Emergency Preparedness program, which will provide instructor-led training with hands-on, interactive educational sessions for participants. The AHA will provide CPR instruction for the program, and sports medicine professionals from Emory Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest employers of athletic trainers, will lead training with youth sports officials and coaches to improve safety at the youth sports level. Participants will be trained in organizing a response team and developing an Emergency Action Plan, which includes the use of an AED and instructions for directing incoming EMS personnel.

“Everyone should learn CPR, because you never know when you might need it,” said Dr. Jonathan Kim, Director of Sports Cardiology at Emory and an Associate Professor at Emory School of Medicine. “Cardiac arrest can happen to athletes, young and old, with or without warning. What we know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that acting as quickly as possible during a crisis – and having an emergency action plan ahead of time with a focus on early CPR and defibrillation if necessary – can save lives.”

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta received a $100,000 grant to support Project S.A.V.E. Started in 2004, the mission of Project S.A.V.E. is to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in children, teens and young adults in Georgia communities. Project S.A.V.E. has grown into a highly acclaimed program providing lifesaving tools for schools, communities and community organizations. Since the program’s inception, Project S.A.V.E. has brought AED and CPR training to every county in Georgia, awarded more than 1,450 HeartSafe certificates to Georgia schools and saved more than 125 lives.

“We are so grateful to the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons for their support of Project S.A.V.E. and recognizing the importance of installing AEDs in Georgia schools,” said Dr. Robert Whitehill, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and medical director of Project S.A.V.E. “Beyond AED installation, they understand why it is critical to train schools how to use the devices and how to build a tailored emergency action plan.  We are fortunate to have their partnership as we aim to ensure all children in our state are covered by cardiac emergency response plans regardless of where they live.”

With February being American Heart Month, now is the perfect time for people to not only focus on their cardiovascular health, but also how they can be prepared to take action and save lives during a cardiac emergency.

To read the official press release in partnership with the Atlanta Falcons, click here.

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