Sudden Cardiac Arrest Is Not on Consumers' Radar, According to Research from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation

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A new study by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, in collaboration with StrataVerve, reveals that although sudden cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., it is not on the general public’s radar. Researchers call for development of a clear, uniform, consumer-friendly definition of sudden cardiac arrest, emphasizing its urgency and distinguishing it from heart attack.

Consumer health concerns in the U.S., 2015

Consumers do not consider sudden cardiac arrest to be a major health concern, although it is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Once people understand the definition of sudden cardiac arrest, they are highly motivated to learn CPR and how to use an AED.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, in collaboration with StrataVerve, a market research firm, has conducted a national baseline study to determine public awareness and understanding of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Mary Newman, MS, president and co-founder of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, and Jennifer Chap, co-founder of StrataVerve, presented study results at the Citizen CPR Foundation’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Update in San Diego in December.

Researchers applied consumer product research thinking to design an innovative study that blended quantitative and qualitative methods. “To impact the public health crisis of sudden cardiac arrest, we first needed to understand consumer unaided awareness of SCA and any knowledge gaps. Only then could we determine what would motivate someone to learn CPR and how to use an AED,” said Chap. “Surprisingly, we could not find any historical research in which unaided consumer awareness had been studied to determine its relative importance in the consumer mindset.”

Research findings indicate that, although it is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.[1], sudden cardiac arrest is not on consumers’ radar. When respondents were asked the unaided question, “Considering your own health or the health of your loved ones, please list three conditions you are most concerned about,” cancer, heart disease, and diabetes topped the list, but not a single respondent mentioned sudden cardiac arrest out of 3,500+ combined responses. What’s more, when a list of 13 health conditions was provided to respondents, familiarity with sudden cardiac arrest was still extremely low—even among those who have dealt with heart attacks, which increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

When respondents were presented with a definition of sudden cardiac arrest, interest in learning CPR increased from 61% pre-definition to 80% post definition; and interest in learning how to use an AED increased from 33% to 54%. Findings indicate that consumer motivation is driven by a clear understanding of sudden cardiac arrest, its urgency, how it differs from a heart attack, and the fact that it can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time, including a family member or a close friend.

Study conclusions and implications include:

  • Sudden cardiac arrest is not on consumers’ radar, but when it is clearly defined, their motivation to learn CPR and how to use an AED increases.
  • The blurring of heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest may be contributing to unintentional consumer apathy with deadly consequences.
  • The awareness and understanding gap extends even to those who have received CPR training, who report they are uncertain about how to use it and why.
  • Key motivational drivers include: the realization that sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime; that immediate CPR can double or triple the chances of survival; and, that free training and convenient practice options are available.
  • Connecting the dots among sudden cardiac arrest, CPR and AEDs is essential for consumer awareness and understanding. What may be obvious to the medical community may not be as clear to average consumers.

"There is an urgent need to create a uniform definition of sudden cardiac arrest in consumer-friendly language and to use it consistently across organizations, the medical community, and the media," said Newman. "If we are going to save more lives, we need to educate the public about the difference between heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest so that more people understand the critical importance of bystander intervention with CPR and AEDs when cardiac arrest occurs."

Chap provided further insights. "Our research shows that once people understand the definition of sudden cardiac arrest, they are highly motivated to learn CPR and how to use an AED," she said. She has a personal connection to the cause. Alerted by her cat Buddy, she helped save her husband Rick's life by calling 911 and performing CPR when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest at their home in 2012. “When Rick arrested, I too was unaware of sudden cardiac arrest in seemingly healthy people," she said. "So, I was driven to apply my research expertise to learn how many others like me would be unaware, and what will motivate a person to be prepared to save a life.”

Fielded in November 2015, the quantitative online study included a national representative sample of 1,000 U.S. respondents, plus a benchmark sample of 200 from King County, Washington, an area recognized for its high cardiac arrest survival rates. Samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. In addition, to tease out qualitative insights, in-depth one-on-one interviews were conducted in Orlando, Florida at Strategic Artifex with video by Dan Beckmann. Researchers plan to repeat this study every two years to monitor progress.

For more information, click here.

[1] IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2015. Strategies to improve cardiac arrest survival: A time to act. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

About the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation
The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation is a national community benefit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and saving lives. Programs include educational campaigns for secondary schools and colleges and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Network, an online community that provides peer support and opportunities for survivors and family members to participate in awareness, advocacy, and research initiatives.

About StrataVerve
StrataVerve is a strategic research boutique with expertise in consumer insights, product development and brand strategy across multiple categories and causes. The StrataVerve difference is an integrated, analytic decision-driven approach that leverages findings to reveal the underlying story to inform decisions that drive action.

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Carissa Caramanis O'Brien
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