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Monfredo: Worcester Public Schools Helping to Make Our City a “Heart Safe Community”

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Secondary school students will enter schools in Worcester shortly and continue with their “Hands on Training in CPR.”  Students in grades 7 through 12 have been receiving training from their physical education teachers.  This program was implemented several years ago and has proven to be most successful.

Believing that the “whole child” should receive a well-rounded education, several years ago I started a committee composed of Carol Manning our Health and Physical Education Liaison, Deborah McGovern our director of School Nurses,  and Patricia Mallios and Blair Young from the American Heart Association.

Being passionate about the need to have our students involved in a lifesaving program that would be part of their experience at the secondary level we ventured forth with a campaign. Our goal was to have every child in grades 7 to 12 receive training every year in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) Hands Only. With over 10,000 students needing to be trained we sought funding for mannequins and AED (Automated External Defibrillators) kits for all secondary schools. The students would be trained in their physical education classes… a subject that all students have to take by law. The beauty about this idea was if we raised the necessary funds the program would be self-sustaining each and every year.  We felt that this was a win-win situation for our community and for the schools if we could raise the needed funds. Needless to say, the community stepped up and we reached our goal and the program has been implemented.  

As a former educator I believe that there is nowhere better to teach these skills than in the schools, and as far as learning goes there is no better age than school age to start learning basic life support skills. Students are easily motivated to learn these skills and according to research are generally easier to teach than adults. 

In addition, many of our readers may not know that Worcester is among several cities that are considered a “Heart Safe Community” by the state. The concept is an initiative to help more people survive after sudden out of hospital cardiac arrest. When someone’s heart stops, they will generally not survive unless a number of interventions take place immediately, including CPR and defibrillation. Thus, a community needs to call attention to this heart-saving technique and train its citizens to assist others.

Being a Heart Safe Community is important but the title means very little unless we as a community expand our awareness to its citizens. In the Worcester Public Schools, we are addressing this important issue by training our students in hands-on CPR and in the use of AED machines.  However, it’s only a start for I hope that our students at the schools can work on training our community in this life-saving measure.

Our district has partnered with the American Heart Association in the training of hands-on CPR. Just last year Worcester Technical High School led all High Schools in the State in the American Heart Association CPR challenge and came away with the 2017-2018 trophy for training the most individuals outside of their school.  This year I hope that we can have ALL of our secondary schools train Worcester citizens through a variety of events such as at parents’ nights, sports events and at such places as the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA - YWCA.  Let’s make this a huge community service project.  We have the students to do it and if we want to set the example for others in keeping Worcester as a Heart Safe City we must move forward with our training.

Keep in mind that every year more than 350,000 Americans experience sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart stops beating. Death is only minutes away and someone needs to assist immediately while paramedics are on the way.  According to the AHA when a bystander promptly performs CPR, it doubles or triples the survival rate.  Bystander CPR consists of only the chest compressions for what it does is pump the blood to the brain and give the person more oxygen.

In summary if someone in cardiac arrest stops breathing and has no pulse one needs to begin CPR.  The first step is to have someone call 911. Then kneel next to the person’s chest. Place the heel of one hand over the other in the middle of the chest … extend your arms completely… push down hard at a 90-degree angle and push hard and after the push completely release your pressure.  That’s one compression and one needs to aim for 100 compressions per minute.  This is very tiresome so one may need to switch with someone if a break is needed.

If CPR is accompanied by the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) which uses electricity in an attempt to restart the heart there is an even better chance for survival.  For more information watch the video that demonstrates the lifesaving skill – http://www.heart.org/HandsOnlyCPR.

The Worcester Public Schools are committed about having this training in our secondary schools. Let’s continue to empower all students with CPR training and AED training for it will dramatically increase the number of first responders in communities each year and save lives.  Quite frankly every student should learn CPR as a life skill prior to graduation and that’s what we are attempting to do in the Worcester Public Schools.  Teaching CPR in our schools can and will save the lives of both adults and children.  As a seventh-grade student enters school this fall, that student will have six years of hands-on CPR and be a CPR bystander in this community. 

In a few years can you imagine the number of CPR bystanders in our community?  Hopefully, this project will truly show everyone that Worcester is a Heart Safe City!


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