It takes a village, or a community, to respond to heart scares
Thursday, November 16, 2023
Today is National Rural Health Day - and in South Dakota, some smaller communities are trying to become more "cardiac ready."
Across rural America, health experts say factors such as ambulance shortages and hospital closures add to access issues for patients, leading to poorer outcomes.
The American Heart Association notes that rural populations are 40% more likely to develop heart disease.
AHA's Senior Rural Health Director for the Midwest, Tim Nikolai, said that's why his organization is working with small towns and cities to build a nation of lifesavers for when a rural resident experiences a heart attack.
"Are the people and the organizations around them prepared to respond with effective Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation?" asked Nikolai. "With utilization of an Automated External Defibrillator? And kind of just having that entire system in place."
The Association is working with state health officials to make its Cardiac Ready Communities Program more accessible in South Dakota.
Municipalities that apply for the designation are given tools to evaluate gaps in getting residents trained and fitting buildings with the proper equipment.
In South Dakota, places such as Kimball and Plankinton have been certified through the program.
Nikolai said schools should be a major priority for any readiness planning.
"There's dozens or hundreds of students there - day in and day out - there's dozens of staff members, there's often parents and other volunteers visiting during the school day," said Nikolai. "And then you think about athletic events and community events that are often housed in schools."
He said schools should not only make sure staff are trained, but also make sure automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are placed in visible locations and are accessible after hours.
Nikolai says churches, food pantries and community centers are other places to add to a readiness plan. Local leaders wanting to pursue a certification can contact the state health department.
The Heart Association also has details on its website, where communities and businesses can build their plan.
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