Report: Black, Hispanic adults less likely to receive CPR, especially in public

Racism ‘is definitely one of the factors’ preventing people from responding to Black and Hispanic adults in need of help, researchers said

CPR training dummy

A new reports says that people of color are less likely to receive lifesaving CPR from bystanders than white people.

You’ve probably heard of ‘bystander syndrome,’ that tragic social phenomenon where an otherwise sane person sees someone in need of help — whether a crime or a medical emergency — and does nothing to help.

New research by the American Heart Association shows that bystander syndrome is taking a deadly toll on Black and Hispanic Americans, who are “substantially less likely” to receive potentially life-saving CPR in a public setting than their white counterparts.

The findings, which were presented last month at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions in Reston, Va., showed that results improved at home or the workplace, where there were more likely to be personal relationships.

Even so “such CPR still was more likely for white people in the study,” according to the American Heart Association.

“We hypothesized that in a public setting, the rates of bystander CPR would increase and the treatment difference seen in the home setting would be smaller because there are more people available to provide CPR,” the study’s lead researcher, Dr. R. Angel Garcia, a cardiology fellow at St. Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it went the opposite way. The disparity became larger.”

According to the research, Black and Hispanic adults were 26 percent less likely to receive bystander CPR if their hearts stopped at home than white people. If it happened in public, they were 41 percent less likely to receive such assistance.

Researchers said they compared response rates in a variety of public settings, such as the workplace, recreational facilities, on the street or highway, in transportation centers, and other areas

Black and Hispanic adults who suffered cardiac arrests were 27 percent less likely to receive bystander CPR in the workplace, and 57 percent less likely if it occurred at a transportation center. Researchers noted that all findings are considered preliminary, until full results were published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The report’s authors “controlled for the age and sex of the people needing aid because some people may be unnecessarily reluctant to administer CPR to older people out of concern for injuring them, or to women out of concern for inappropriately touching them,” the Heart Association said in its statement.

That means “The only thing left to describe why a person would not respond in the public setting is the race of the person,” Garcia said in the statement. “Maybe there is implicit bias. Or maybe they have a conscious bias against the person’s race. The reality is, we can’t account for which of those reasons would be truly present.”

Katie Dainty, the research chair at North York General Hospital and an associate professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, said racism is “is definitely one of the factors” preventing Black and Hispanic adults from receiving the help they need.

“But that’s a very hard thing to measure,” Dainty added. “What we need to do is hit these concepts straight on – talk about them so we can address them in a proactive way. And that is not easy. Bringing it to light as we are doing with this research is a step in the right direction.”

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John L. Micek/Pennsylvania Capital-Star
John L. Micek/Pennsylvania Capital-Star

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press