Closing Gender Gap with Life-Saving Skills Training Campaign

Singapore’s first female-centric CPR and AED communications campaign, Heart to Heart, engaged over 1,000 students and saw 97 undergraduates trained in essential bystander life-saving skills at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in the past month. Heart to Heart is a campaign run by four students from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information as part of their final year project.

Those behind the Heart to Heart campaign (from left to right) Mr Jeremy Hong (26), Miss Kimberly Seah (22), Miss Hazell Tan (22) and Miss Grace Tan (22).

Cardiac arrest is one of Singapore’s biggest killers, with an average of 7 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases occurring each day. Two years ago, team member Grace Tan learnt about the death of a batchmate who suffered a cardiac arrest while playing soccer. While not personally acquainted with the victim, there were many around her who mourned the loss of their friend, whom they knew to be healthy and fit. The incident left a deep impression on her and set her thinking about how she would react in such a situation.

“When I heard about what had happened, it hit me really hard that life is really that precious and fleeting. I was afraid that this would happen again and I wanted to do something to protect the people I love,” said Tan, 22. “After talking to my friends and family about my worries, I realised that the only people who were somewhat confident in performing CPR were males who had been through National Service. Most girls I know never had the chance to learn life-saving skills in school, unless they were part of a uniformed group CCA (co-curriculum activity) like myself.”

Drawing inspiration from Grace’s experience, the team of four embarked on the project in August last year, targeted at increasing intention to perform bystander CPR and AED support.

Their survey of 266 NTU undergraduates found that male undergraduates were 76.5% more likely to be trained than females undergraduates, with the majority of female undergraduates either afraid or lacking the confidence to perform bystander support should the need arise.

Female undergraduates learning CPR and AED skills at the complimentary on-campus awareness workshops, held in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross and supported by the Temasek Foundation

In addition, a 2017 study by the Center for Resuscitation Science, University of Pennsylvania also found that women were generally 27% less likely to be saved in a cardiac arrest situation. Researchers suspect that this finding was due to bystanders’ reluctance to touch a woman’s chest.

To address these trends, Heart to Heart conducted a series of offline and online efforts with a novel approach to focus on female undergraduates.

Campaign events included the installation of a CPR Self-Learning Kiosk by the Singapore Heart Foundation on campus, a school-wide AED Hunt competition, and #BPMconcerts which promoted the proper compression rate of CPR of 100-120 compressions per minute.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, Heart to Heart also held a roadshow at NTU’s North Spine on 9 March 2020 to promote the importance of a strong female presence in Singapore’s bystander life-saving community. Participants learnt about important CPR and AED knowledge and were in for a treat at the attractive roadshow booths held by partnering brands, including Kotex, Cute Press and JJ Royal Coffee. The campaign culminated in a series of seven complimentary on-campus CPR+AED awareness workshops, held in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross and supported by the Temasek Foundation. 97 participants, of which 49 were female first-time learners, received hands-only training using manikins and AED trainers.

“I attended the training because I believe that girls can save lives too. I’m here to play my part for the community,” said Miss Tan Li Ching, 23, an Earth and Environmental Science student at NTU who attended the training workshop. Others signed up after realising that they could be a key responder if their friends and family became victims of cardiac arrest.

“I live in an area with many elderly residents so I thought that knowing CPR and AED were good skills to have. I want to be able to help my loved ones in case anything happens to them,” said Miss Pooja Srinivas Nag, a 20-year-old student from the School of Computer Science and Engineering.

Amidst fears of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, hands-only CPR practice without the use of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is still encouraged, as advised by the Singapore Government. Prompt intervention by bystanders is crucial as the chance of survival for the cardiac arrest victim drops by 10% for every minute without CPR or AED support. After wrapping up its pilot run in NTU, Heart to Heart will expand its efforts to reach out to more females in Singapore, with support from the Singapore Red Cross Youth network.

“We are very heartened by the efforts and dedication of the young team, and equally impressed with the stellar results that they have achieved in such a short time. To build a more resilient community, we need everyone, regardless of age, to take on the responsibility of learning CPR, AED and how to save lives,” said Mr Sahari Ani, Dean of the Singapore Red Cross Academy and Senior Director of Red Cross Youth. “We hope more youth will continue to lead by example and support one another in preparedness initiatives.”

To find out more about the campaign, do visit them on Instagram @hearttoheart.sg, and visit redcross.sg or myheart.org.sg to register for first-aid training.  


Images: Heart to Heart

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