For Jennifer Chap, SCA Foundation advisor and cofounder of Florida-based consumer insight and marketing firm Strataverve, the topic of sudden cardiac arrest isn't just a professional one. It's personal.
Seven years ago, Chap's husband suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in their home. A 9-1-1 dispatcher coached her through CPR and “we were Rick’s heartbeat for almost 10 minutes," recalled Chap. An AED shock by the responding EMS agency saved her husband's life.
Chap presented “Public Understanding of SCA Motivates Bystander Action” Friday morning Oct. 18 at EMS World Expo in New Orleans.
“Telephone CPR works. Rick is living proof of that,” said Chap, pointing out her husband in the audience.
This life-changing event set her out on a mission to inform the public and to inspire action. SCA strikes a thousand people a day in the U.S., Chap said. Statistics say that bystander action improves SCA survival. By improving the public’s understanding of SCA, we can motivate bystander action and can save thousands of lives, she said. But how?
Chap presented the results of two studies her firm conducted on behalf of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation on SCA awareness and bystander action. The first established a baseline of public awareness. A followup 2017 study focused on what messaging best motivates action.
The first study polled thousands of adults and found that SCA is simply not on the public’s radar. There is a “frightening” lack of awareness and understanding, and considerable confusion surrounding how to intervene, Chap said. The awareness gap even extends to those who have been trained in CPR.
The first study concluded that “connecting the dots” is essential to patient understanding: CPR + AEDs save lives, and establishing a “pre-chain” of survival can clear confusion, enlighten lay rescuers, and lead to bystander intervention.
The second study, an online quantitative study of 2200 subjects coupled with in-person qualitative interviews, focused on messaging. The hypothesis was that a lay-friendly definition of SCA could enlighten lay rescuers to act. The team sought to create messages that would clear confusion and resonate with audiences.
The study highlighted common barriers to intervention, including concern over hurting the victim, feelings of incompetency to help or that someone else is more suitable to intervene, and worries over liability and disease transmission. Could consistent and clear messaging help overcome them?
A survey of respondents’ likelihood to act both before and after reading a basic, lay-friendly definition of SCA found significant findings. Prior to reading the 100-word definition, just 38% of subjects said they would be “very likely” to administer CPR, and 26% would be "very likely" to apply an AED. After reading the definition, 48% would perform CPR and 36% would apply an AED.
The study further found that two areas of messaging seemed to rise to the top in resonating with audiences: First, “You can double or triple a person’s chance of survival from SCA by immediately giving CPR.” Second, “You may save the life of someone you love by giving CPR, as most SCAs happen at home.”
Consistently delivering these simple and clear instructions can result in profound increases in bystander action, stressed Chap. "If our cause is a brand, these two things together can be very powerful,” she said, adding that the emotional component of the messaging helps drive the point home.
The SCA Foundation has begun incorporating this messaging into its marketing. A new infographic and a website relaunch include the main points uncovered in Chap’s survey. Continuing research will gauge its effectiveness. The SCA Foundation, along with Parent Heart Watch, is also sponsoring the “Call-Push-Shock” movement, which provides ongoing content to organizations to get the word out. The campaign currently has 29 co-partners.
With a long list of supporting organizations and partners, it’s important not to deliver mixed messaging, said Chap. “There is power in our speaking in one voice,” she said. “This whole movement has been built in that spirit of collaboration.”
“We have the power to change that apathy” and inspire action among lay-rescuers, Chap concluded, adding that by extrapolating the results of her study, along with data from CARES, at least 14% more lives can be saved in one year with proper implementation of this strategy. “Understanding drives action.”