WASHINGTON, D.C., May 20, 2024 — Cardiac arrest survivors, families who have lost a loved one to cardiac arrest, health care providers and other grassroots advocates from across the country will be in Washington, D.C. this week to ask their elected representatives to join the growing bipartisan support for policies that help ensure students, staff and visitors in schools are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.

The advocates are part of You’re the Cure, the national grassroots network of the American Heart Association, which is celebrating 100 years of lifesaving service as the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health. Advocates will be meeting with federal lawmakers to discuss lifesaving legislation including the Cardiomyopathy, Health Education, Awareness, Research and Training in Schools Act, or HEARTS Act, and the Access to AEDs Act.

These strongly bipartisan bills would extend access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs), increase CPR training and enable the creation of cardiac emergency response plans in schools nationwide. The HEARTS Act was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in March 2024, and the Access to AEDs Act was endorsed by the National Football League and other professional and amateur sports leagues in March 2023.

“The advocates joining us on Capitol Hill have incredibly powerful stories to share of what happens when the chain of survival works as it should, as well as the devastating consequences when it doesn’t,” said American Heart Association Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown. “We have seen incredible momentum in states nationwide implementing evidence-based policies that will ensure schools have a plan and training program in place, along with the resources and equipment necessary, to respond in an emergency. Congressional legislation will help build upon this success by ensuring schools nationwide have the federal resources they need to be ready to respond to a cardiac arrest on campus.”

Each year, more than 356,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital in the United States. Currently, only 10% of those people will survive, most likely because there are people nearby prepared to take action. CPR, if performed immediately, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

“When I saw one of my athletes fall to the ground during track practice, I knew I needed to act quickly and begin CPR while my assistant principal went to retrieve the AED,” said American Heart Association volunteer advocate Lauren Palek of Tampa, Fla. “We were lucky that we had the training and equipment to respond, but many teachers and school staff across the country do not have either. I look forward to meeting with my lawmakers and calling upon them to help get the lifesaving HEARTS Act and Access to AEDs Act passed quickly so schools can have plans in place to react in case of a cardiac emergency.”

It is estimated that up to 23,000 children under the age of 18 experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital annually in this country. Of those incidents, about 40% are sports related. In schools with AEDs, approximately 70% of children survive cardiac arrest – 7 times the overall survival rate for children.

“By the time emergency responders arrived to help my son Dominic after he collapsed while playing basketball at school, it was too late,” said Melinda Murray-Nyack of East Elmhurst, N.Y., an American Heart Association New York State Advocacy Committee Chair. “Just three years after losing Dominic’s dad to a fatal heart attack, I lost my only child because no one at the school was prepared to do CPR or find an AED. I will be sharing my experience with my representatives in Congress to show that their support for the HEARTS Act and Access to AEDs Act could mean other families have a happier ending to their story.” 

People across the country are encouraged to join the advocates in Washington in pushing Congress to pass these lifesaving policies by texting ‘AED’ to 46839.

The American Heart Association is a founding member of the NFL’s Smart Heart Sports Coalition, which is working in states nationwide to pass policies that enable schools to adopt cardiac emergency response plans. This calendar year alone, 10 states have passed such legislation with bipartisan support. The Association strongly urges Congress to pass federal legislation that would help ensure schools have the resources they need to develop and implement these plans.

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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 - our Centennial year - we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.  

For Media Inquiries:
Arielle Beer: 202-785-7902; arielle.beer@heart.org  

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