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Overcoming Fear and Language Barriers: CPR Education Empowers Latino Community

The Latino Health Initiative, a University of Virginia program in Charlottesville, offers a CPR course in Spanish. (Photo courtesy of UVA Latino Health Initiative)

In central Virginia, a CPR class conducted in Spanish is making a difference for members of the Latino community who recognize the life-saving potential of the technique. However, fear and uncertainty often hinder their ability to provide critical care in emergency situations.

Trainers, who have witnessed this apprehension firsthand, are taking a comprehensive approach in their CPR classes. Not only do they teach participants how to administer CPR correctly to someone experiencing cardiac arrest, but they also provide culturally relevant information to alleviate concerns.

Dr. Max Luna, a cardiologist, and director of the Latino Health Initiative at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, emphasizes the importance of addressing the fears and hesitation that may prevent individuals from performing CPR. The initiative's CPR program focuses on creating a comfortable environment and instilling confidence in participants.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops, resulting in the loss of consciousness and cessation of blood flow to vital organs. CPR mimics the heart's pumping action by using chest compressions to maintain blood circulation.

According to statistics from the American Heart Association, over 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of hospitals each year in the United States, with the majority happening at home. Research has shown that Hispanic and Black individuals, including children, who experience cardiac arrest in public settings, are less likely to receive CPR from a lay responder compared to their white counterparts.

The Latino Health Initiative aims to increase the number of Latino individuals prepared to administer CPR during emergencies. Dr. Luna, also an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine, stresses the need to bridge this gap in knowledge and skills.

While the CPR classes offered by the initiative include information about automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and devices that can restore a normal heart rhythm, formal instruction on their usage is not provided. Some AEDs offer voice prompts in Spanish to guide users through the process, but language barriers persist. Additionally, not all 911 call centers have Spanish-speaking dispatchers, compounding the challenges faced by Hispanic communities. Immigration status and mistrust of law enforcement also deter some individuals from calling 911.

Furthermore, concerns about legal repercussions and inadvertently causing harm to someone in cardiac arrest contribute to hesitancy among Latinos. The CPR trainers address these concerns by reviewing "Good Samaritan" laws, which protect individuals who volunteer to aid injured or sick individuals in emergencies.

Offering CPR training in Spanish not only demystifies the process but also raises awareness and reduces uneasiness. The Latino Health Initiative recognizes that tailoring CPR education to specific cultures is crucial, as each community has unique needs, fears, and concerns. Dr. Luna's team has witnessed positive responses to their CPR training, and they are now planning a similar initiative in Black communities.

Maggie del Valle, a CPR trainer in Los Angeles, acknowledges that using both chest compressions and rescue breaths can yield optimal results, but she understands that hands-only CPR is a viable option for those concerned about disease transmission or uncomfortable with giving breaths.

Formal certification is not required to perform hands-on CPR, as the American Heart Association highlights. To perform this technique on a teenager or adult, place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest, place the other hand on top, and interlock the fingers. Push hard and fast at a pace of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Online videos, including Spanish-language resources, are also available for further guidance.

The positive response to CPR training within the Latino Health Initiative demonstrates the importance of empowering communities with life-saving skills. Plans are now underway to extend similar initiatives to Black communities, recognizing the need for tailored approaches to address diverse cultural needs, fears, and concerns.

Source: Learn, Enjoy, and Save Life. Healthforce Training Center offers CPR Training and certifications such as Basic Life Support (BLS), Advance Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advance Life Support (PALS), CPR AED, Pediatric First Aid CPR AED, and First Aid CPR AED.

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