SOURCE: American Heart Association

American Heart Association

February 25, 2011 12:32 ET

American Heart Association Advocates Push to Save CPR in Iowa Schools

Legislation Threatens First-of-Its-Kind CPR Requirement for All Iowa High Schoolers

DES MOINES, IA--(Marketwire - February 25, 2011) - The Iowa Legislature is currently debating House File 109, which would end mandatory CPR training in Iowa schools. The passage of this bill would reduce the number of Iowans ready and able to do CPR on victims of sudden cardiac arrest, putting many lives at risk. The American Heart Association, the state's EMS workers, Iowa Public Health Association, Iowa Health System, community training centers and American Red Cross are asking legislators to reconsider this repeal.

Every year, EMS treats 300,000 sudden cardiac arrest victims outside of hospitals. A sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at anytime and those who experience one likely have no prior heart issues or symptoms. Less than 8% survive to make it out of their initial hospital stay.

CPR can double or even triple a victim's survival rate. Currently, just one-third of sudden cardiac arrest victims receive CPR. This is due mainly to a lack of knowledge and willingness to perform the life-saving procedure. The American Heart Association updated its guidelines in 2010 to make CPR more accessible to those without medical training. Instead of checking the airway and performing breathing exercises on the victim, rescuers may now simply perform chest compressions at a beat of 100 per minute.

Brian Helland, Assistant Fire Chief of Clive, volunteers for the American Heart Association and helped train more than 2,500 Valley High School students CPR over a four year period when he served as the Deputy Chief of EMS in West Des Moines. "CPR training can be done economically. West Des Moines and Marshalltown Schools have partnerships with local EMS who come in to assist with training and many other schools look to volunteer instructors. This does not have to be a costly requirement, but it is a requirement that saves lives," he says.

Helland was part of a 15-year long program at Valley that certified all sophomores in CPR. "P.E. teachers taught them the skills and then we (the EMS) would come do the certification skills checks," Helland says. "It saved the teachers' time and the schools' money since we were able to move more students through the class."

One Cedar Rapids family will forever be grateful their daughter learned CPR in school. Erica Whitney was 22 years old when she saved her father's life by doing CPR. "When you're learning it, you never expect to use it on someone you love," she says. "You don't expect to have to act when your dad is turning blue."

The American Heart Association urges Iowans who support CPR in schools to contact their legislators and ask them to stand against House File 109, which may come to a vote before March 11. Visit for details.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Alexson Calahan
    Communications Director
    Email Contact