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Black and Brown People Less Likely to Get CPR, Says New Study

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Black and Brown people in need of CPR after a cardiac arrest are less likely to get help from passersby, according to a study by the American College of Cardiology

“We found that bystander CPR rates are much higher in white communities compared with Black communities,” said Pul S. Chan, MD, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study. “In addition, there were patient-level disparities in getting bystander CPR regardless of the type of community the person was in, even though there were, in all of these cases, bystanders who could have provided aid and assistance.”

The study analyzed data over a six-year course from 2013 to 2019. Looking at more than 110,000 heart attacks that occurred in the U.S., the researchers found that, when the patients were in need of CPR outside, only 46% of the Black and Brown patients were given CPR by onlookers. Meanwhile, 60% of the white patients who suffered a heart attack while in public received CPR from the people standing nearby. 

The lower rates remained the same for the Black and Brown patients who had a heart attack at home. While 47% of white patients experiencing cardiac arrest at home got CPR, only 39% of Black and Brown patients were able to get help in the same situation. 

While the study didn’t review the reasons behind why the rates of bystander CPR are lower for Black and Brown people, the authors mention that racial bias could play a part as it has been recorded as having an effect on the care of heart disease patients. 

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In a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers from the University of Arizona presented 422 employees at hospitals, such as doctors and nurses, with the ability to make decisions about which patients they would admit for further care with fake cases. The imaginary patients presented to them had the same background in terms of their medical and social information but were of different races. 

Once the participants of the study were divided and asked separately, there were few hints of racial bias. However, once 44 participants were grouped together to represent the traditional hospital meetings on choosing who to admit, researchers found that the employees were less likely to recommend the imaginary patients for necessary heart transplants if they were Black. Their decisions were influenced by their assumptions that Black people are not as healthy as white people, will not go to follow-up check-ups and are, overall, not as reliable. 

To overcome this racial bias, the authors of the study recommend more diversity in CPR training, referring to the lack of representation in the mannequins used and training videos. Overall, the authors of the study detail a need to give more accessible CPR training to marginalized neighborhoods. 

“We need to think creatively about how to offer CPR instruction to vulnerable populations that have historically not received training and focus on conducting more training in the communities where the disparities are greatest,” Chan said in a press release for the study. “For example, we could make CPR training available at little to no cost and do it at times and locations that are more convenient, such as Black churches or Hispanic community centers, or allow many people to be trained at once, for example as part of a Juneteenth or Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.”

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