‘Teach CPR In Places Of Worship To Address Health Inequalities’, Study Shows

‘Teach CPR in places of worship to address health inequalities’, study shows

Teaching people life-saving skills in places of worship could help close the “good health gap” according to a new article published in the European Heart Journal.

The British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) is urging other faith leaders to follow their example after they successfully delivered first aid training in over 80 mosques last year.

This attracted high levels of engagement in many areas with health inequalities – those with a high risk of cardiac arrest yet low bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) interventions.

BIMA’s national “Lifesaver” training day, which uses materials from Resuscitation Council UK, attracts thousands of people a year. Now in its ninth year, the BIMA Lifesavers programme could be rolled out to places of worship across all faiths in the UK and abroad.

Training is delivered following afternoon prayers across the UK, and now also in several other countries on the same day each year. Participants are taught CPR (including the importance of early use of automated electrical defibrillators), the recovery position, and choking management through a combination of theory, practical demonstrations, and a chance to try out techniques using mannequins or specially designed (and translated) ‘pillow partner’ pillowcases to show where to press during chest compressions. 

Yasmin from London saved the life of her best friend’s son hours after leaving a Lifesaver training session at Quwwatul Islam mosque on Upton Lane, east London, on 28 September 2019.

Yasmin’s friend had just served up dessert when her 12-year-old son started choking. “He’d been eating a slice of cake when he started coughing,” Yasmin says. “At first I thought he was messing around, but then my friend cried out, ‘He’s not breathing, help him!'” The lad stood up, struggling for breath, and the dentist knew she had to act quickly. “His face was going bright red, my friend was panicking so I said calmly, ‘Just keep coughing,’ and started doing back slaps. Nothing came out so I switched to an abdominal thrusts and it all came out. It took a while for him to calm down and we all just sat at the dinner table in shock. For the next couple of days he wouldn’t eat anything and kept saying to me that he might not have survived. My friend had to chop up his food into smaller and smaller pieces until finally he started eating again.”

She describes the experience of teaching choking management to 60 women and girls throughout the day only to face an emergency hours later as surreal. “I’m a believer that you get directed in life and things happen for a reason, good and bad, and that maybe that was my training to prepare me for what happened that night. I had to act quickly to make sure he was going to be OK.”

As well as bringing a CPR mannequin home and teaching her whole family CPR, she is urging everyone to learn life-saving skills whilst waiting for an ambulance, particularly in case of potential ambulance delays.

“Everyone should know how to give CPR, use a defibrillator or manage choking – these are life skills the same as knowing how to make toast or fry eggs. Knowing what to do means one can act fast in an emergency – when someone is in cardiac arrest, every second counts. Keep the blood circulating to the brain, as without that when the person comes round they could be alive but without any quality of life due to brain injury.”

She was so impressed by the Lifesavers training that she now organises sessions for the Muslim community at her local place of worship, the Havering Islamic and Cultural Centre, which includes people from Asia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Middle East among its worshippers.

“The people I trained had no idea how to do CPR or why it was important to know. Having this training in familiar places really opens up access, as well as raising awareness. It’s important for people to learn in an environment where they are comfortable and where there is always someone around who can help with translation,” she said.

“Sadly, we heard one or two sad stories from people who felt they could have saved a life if only they’d known these skills earlier and I’m sure that’s true for most communities. So I think it would be great if these sessions were held in churches, temples, synagogues, and other places of worship.”

In the UK, some British Muslim communities have higher levels of health disparities in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and physical activity, which can predispose them to poorer outcomes from out of hospital cardiac arrests.

Health inequalities exist in out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rates at regional and global levels, with disproportionately lower CPR delivery rates seen in areas of socio-economic deprivation and with high proportions of ethnic minorities in the population.

Dr. Mohammed Khanji, Consultant Cardiologist at Barts Health NHS Trust and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer with Queen Mary University of London, volunteers as part of the BIMA Lifesavers national team. He said: “There is still significant room for improving survival following cardiac arrests, which causes untold suffering in our communities. By teaching people the life-saving skills of CPR, how to use a defibrillator, and choking management, we are equipping our communities to unite, inspire and save lives.”

If you are a mosque interested in bringing Lifesavers to your community on Saturday 24 September this year,  email lifesavers@britishima.org.  If you are a medic or healthcare professional interested in teaching Lifesavers to your local community, sign up now at bit.ly/teachlifesavers22.

Written by: Tamsin Starr

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