If you collapse in a public place from a cardiac arrest, your chances of receiving life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are substantially better if you’re white instead of Black or Hispanic, a new study finds.
Black and Hispanic individuals who have out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that others witness are less likely to receive bystander CPR than white people are, whether the cardiac arrest happens at home or in a public place, researchers discovered.
“In the U.S., there are approximately 350,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside of the hospital each year. Through prior reports, I learned that there are significant disparities in surviving this condition in Black and Hispanic communities,” says Dr. Raul Angel Garcia, lead study author and fellow in training at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. “I found that this disparity was a little unsettling, but at the same time important to better understand.”
Not a heart attack
Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function, often because the heart’s electrical system has malfunctioned, according to the American Heart Association. It is not a heart attack and it can be fatal if proper steps aren’t taken immediately.
The researchers had hypothesized that the racial disparities in CPR would be narrower in public places, but found that not to be true, says study co-author Dr. Paul Chan, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
“We don’t understand why those disparities not only persisted in the public arena but were apparently even greater. The speculation is that there could be issues of bias, whether explicit or implicit,” Chan shares. “And what was striking for us was that this was not only present in white communities, but also Black and Hispanic communities.”
If a white person had a cardiac arrest in a community where more than 50% of the residents were Black or Hispanic, they were still much more likely to get bystander CPR than a Black or Hispanic individual, Chan explains. That was consistent whether it was a predominantly white community, an integrated community or a majority Black or Hispanic community, he adds.
To study the issue, the investigators analyzed 110,000 bystander-witnessed cardiac arrests that happened in settings other than hospitals between 2013 and 2019.
The researchers found that Black and Hispanic people were 41% less likely to receive CPR in public settings and 26% less likely to receive the care at home compared with white people.
In public settings, Black and Hispanic individuals received CPR 46% of the time and white individuals received it 60% of the time. In the home, just 39% of Black and Hispanic people received CPR compared with 47% of white people.
Not enough training?
Less access to CPR training or to emergency dispatchers who can communicate in a language other than English could help to