CPR Is Less Likely to be Performed on Low-Income Blacks

African-Americans are 50 percent less likely to receive the life-saving procedure and twice as likely to die from cardiac arrest.

Posted: 10/30/2012 09:27 PM EDT

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is one of the most reliable and simplest ways that everyday folks can save someone’s life if their heart has stopped beating or if they cannot breathe.

But this emergency procedure is less likely to be performed on low-income African-Americans, says a new study.

Researchers from the University of Colorado looked at data from two large federal studies that included more than 14,000 people in almost 30 states and found that in low-income neighborhoods, African-Americans collapsing in the streets due to cardiac arrest are 50 percent less likely to have someone perform CPR on them compared to wealthier whites.

The Huffington Post wrote:

The researchers also found that regardless of a neighborhood's racial makeup, CPR was less likely to be offered in poor areas. That shows that socio-economic status makes more difference than the neighborhood's racial makeup, said lead author Dr. Camilla Sasson, of the University of Colorado in Denver.


While few people in poor black neighborhoods got CPR, those who did faced double the odds of surviving. Overall, only 8 percent of patients survived until at least hospital discharge, but 12 percent of those who got bystander CPR did versus just 6 percent of those who did not.

It’s important to point out that race was a deciding factor, too.  Without taking socioeconomic status into consideration, African-Americans and Latinos were still 30 percent less likely to be given CPR in times of dire emergencies.

So what’s the deal?

Proper CPR training and education are big factors, say the study’s authors. But they emphasize that CPR certification isn’t a top-line item for many lower-income families.

"If they paid $250 for a CPR class, you are talking about 15 percent of their salary," Sasson said in a press release. "When you look at the competing economic interests – am I going to eat tonight or attend a CPR class? – the answer is obvious."

The American Heart Association estimates that more than 80 percent of the 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests that happen each year happen at home. And African-Americans are twice as likely to experience cardiac arrest in the house, compared to their white counterparts, and are twice as likely to die from it.

Sasson hopes that her study will ring the alarm on these serious health disparities.  

“I would see African-Americans coming in and dying from cardiac arrests after having laid there for 10 minutes with no one delivering CPR,” Sasson said. "There is no reason in 2012 that this kind of disparity exists -- that you live or die depending on what side of the street you drop on. It is simply unacceptable."

Learn where you can find an affordable Red Cross CPR class in your area here.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

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