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Save a Life (Before You Graduate)

If you suddenly underwent cardiac arrest, who would be there to save you? Minutes matter when situations like these occur; your survival odds would drastically increase if someone were to perform CPR. However, only about 2.4% of Americans are trained in CPR [1]. This disappointingly low number does not have to be this way as many states require CPR education. But, why is it not working? Why is CPR education important? And what can we do to go beyond 2.4%?

Thirty-eight states as well as Washington D.C. set CPR training as a high school graduation requirement. One would expect this majority of states to result in a strong foundation of CPR-trained students. Unfortunately, many schools have found it difficult to fulfill these state laws. A study found that only 77% of schools surveyed actually followed through [3]. The problem stems from a lack of resources for schools. CPR training tools are expensive, especially if proper hands-on training is desired. One standard Red Cross CPR mannequin costs $495, which can be a hefty cost for many large public schools that might need ten or more to efficiently train as many students as possible. Many states fail to provide enough funding for this training, leaving schools to their own devices. This lack of resources trickles down to the quality of training; only three out of the thirty-eight states require CPR instructors to be certified, and 11% of schools surveyed had untrained CPR instructors [3].

This clear lack of attention towards CPR education in schools is a massive let-down, especially since it is so important with its many positive effects. Training students in this crucial life-saving skill has been shown to “raise awareness of the responsibility to help others and increase self-confidence to provide bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation.” [4]

In addition, although cardiac arrest events are less likely to happen at schools, self-reported data has shown that on the off chance that a cardiac arrest event does happen in a school, the death rate is significantly lower [5]. Increasing the number of young people trained can also help reduce general incidences outside of school, such as at airports, gyms, and malls, which are some of the public locations with the highest occurrences of cardiac arrest [6]. CPR education in schools also transcends socioeconomic barriers, allowing for students of diverse backgrounds – especially students of color who often have lower access to lifesaving care – to have an equal opportunity to save lives [7].

While increasing CPR education is certainly of importance, actions must be taken to properly execute these mandates as well as feasibly expand mandatory CPR training to all 50 states. First, access to funding is crucial; schools need to be supported in order to train their staff to be qualified instructors and successfully train all students to be CPR certified.

Without the ability to fund schools and instructors, CPR training would be ineffective and conceptual at best without physical experience with a mannequin. Second, general awareness of the importance of CPR needs to be emphasized. Students need to understand that their training could save their friends’ lives. By creating an emotional motivation, rather than “just another academic requirement,” a more impactful learning experience will be gained. If all else fails, we must turn to parents to educate their children; any training is better than no training, and knowing the basics can still be effective [2].

The importance of CPR training should not be underestimated. Our current policies do not adequately reflect the value of such an education and do not promote proper training. By making simple changes to funding and recognizing the potential to save lives, mandatory CPR training in schools can be an effective tool to make the difference between life and death for the thousands of people that annually fall into cardiac arrest. You could even save a life before you graduate high school.


1. Rapaport, L. (2017, November 20). Many U.S. schools don’t teach CPR even when states require it. U.S.

2. CPR training at school now required in 38 states. (2018, August 23). states#:~:text=Overall%2C%2038%20states%20plus%20Washington,take%20 effect%20this%20school%20year.

3. Brown, L. E., Lynes, C., Carroll, T., & Halperin, H. (2017). CPR Instruction in U.S. High Schools. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(21), 2688–2695.

4. Pivač, S., Gradišek, P., & Skela-Savič, B. (2020). The impact of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training on schoolchildren and their CPR knowledge, attitudes toward CPR, and willingness to help others and to perform CPR: mixed methods research design. BMC Public Health, 20(1).

5.Cave, D. M., Aufderheide, T. P., Beeson, J., Ellison, A., Gregory, A., Hazinski, M. F., Hiratzka, L. F., Lurie, K. G., Morrison, L. J., Mosesso, V. N., Nadkarni, V., Potts, J., Samson, R. A., Sayre, M. R., & Schexnayder, S. M. (2011). Importance and Implementation of Training in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillation in Schools. Circulation, 123(6), 691–706.

6. Becker, L., Eisenberg, M., Fahrenbruch, C., & Cobb, L. (1998). Public Locations of Cardiac Arrest. Circulation, 97(21), 2106–2109.

7. Implicit Bias and Racial Disparities in Health Care. (2015). n_rights_magazine_home/the-state-of-healthcare-in-the-unitedstates/racial-disparities-in-health-care/

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