Five Creative and Innovative Ways to Bring Hands-Only CPR Education to the Community

Bystander CPR can double or triple the chance of survival for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) victims,1 yet bystander CPR rates remain low in some of our highest-risk communities.2 To increase bystander CPR rates, it’s important to identify barriers to EMS activation and create innovative CPR training opportunities.

  1. Mass gatherings, such as sporting events, provide a captive audience for introducing the public to CPR. Engaging yet educational videos that can be played at these events are available online but many organizations also create their own. Illinois Heart Rescue (ILHR) recently sponsored events at Chicago Cubs and Chicago Fire games. In just 10 minutes, participants learned how to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Festivals and other events also present training opportunities. At Drop the Guns and RUN!, a 5K held in a Chicago neighborhood riddled with gun violence, ILHR provided hands-only CPR education to over 500 attendees before the race.
  2. By identifying cardiac arrest “hot spots” using geographic information systems (GIS) or anecdotal information, interventions can be targeted to neighborhoods with low rates of bystander CPR. Neighborhood report cards displaying those rates can help mobilize community leaders. One neighborhood in Chicago responded by adding CPR education to driver’s education classes.
  3. Leaders of faith-based organizations can stress the importance of CPR from the pulpit; encourage CPR training after services; use a train-the-trainer model and create a system to lend equipment. Toolkits can be tailored to the audience (e.g., use gospel music with a rhythm of 100 beats per minute for practicing CPR).
  4. Illinois requires CPR and AED training in schools, but many can’t afford equipment. ILHR purchased training equipment and worked with the Illinois State Board of Education to identify ways to distribute it. Illinois school systems are based on a hub-and-spoke model with Regional Offices of Education (ROE) supporting several districts. Instead of giving toolkits to each school, ILHR provided them to each ROE for schools to borrow.
  5. American Medical Response (AMR) sets aside one day each year for a national CPR challenge. AMR agencies and community partners collaborate to see how many people can be trained in compression-only CPR. The numbers have been impressive, with 67,047 trained nationwide in 2015. AMR credits its success to its efforts to take the training to the people, by providing CPR training on the beach or in a grocery store rather than having individuals come to a training site.


With some initiative, opportunities to train members of your community to recognize cardiac arrest and provide CPR are abundant. Bystander CPR and OHCA survival rates can improve if we engage community leaders, promote opportunities to train captive audiences, train people of all ages and encourage those we’re training to teach their friends and families.

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1. Sasson C, Rogers MA, Dahl J, et al. Predictors of survival from out-ofhospital cardiac arrest: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2010;3(1):63—81.

2. Nichol G, Thomas E, Callaway CW, et al. Regional variation in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence and outcome. JAMA. 2008;300(12):1423—1431.

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